The recipe for this pasta dish is from my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking (now out of print).
In the Sicilian language the recipe is called : Pasta chi brocculi arriminata. In Italian = Pasta rimestata coi cavolfiori.
Rimestata, seems like a fancy word, but it just means stirred.
In English, I have described this as Pasta with cauliflower, sultanas, pine nuts and anchovies.
In Italian the word for cauliflower is cavolfiore. Just to be different, the Sicilian name for cauliflower is brocculi.
In Sicily coloured cauliflowers are the most common (unfortunately most of the colour fades when they are cooked). As well as the familiar white or cheddar (pale yellow) varieties, there are beautiful purple ones (cavolfiore viola in Italian) that range in colour from pink through violet to dark purple. A friend in Australia is growing a variety called purple cape cauliflower and one that is light green and pink called cavolfiore romanesco precoce.
There are also the bright, pale green ones and a sculpted, pointy pale green variety called Roman cauliflower; I have seen these in Rome and throughout Tuscany.
Every time I cook this pasta dish, there is great applause from guests.
Over time recipes evolve and each time I make it I may vary it slightly, mainly by increasing the amounts of some of the ingredients, for example: I tend to use more bayleaves (or rosemary), pine nuts, anchovies (for people who like them and remove them for those who do not).
I also like to add some fresh fennel (at the same time as I place the cauliflower into the pan) and a little stock and white wine.
I present the pasta with both pecorino cheese and breadcrumbs. Sometimes I add cubes of feta or ricotta whipped with a little pepper. Feta is Greek, but I like it as it adds creaminess to the dish.
The ingredients and the method of cooking the pasta with cauliflower below is how the recipe appears in the book. The recommended amount of pasta is 100g per person. In our household this is far too much and 500g of pasta is OK as first course for 6-8 people. As with all recipes I hope that you vary it to suit your tastes.
500g dry, short pasta
2 tablespoons sultanas or currants
1 medium cauliflower
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4–5 anchovies, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 small teaspoon saffron soaked in a little warm water
grated pecorino or toasted breadcrumbs
salt and crushed dried chillies to taste
Soak the sultanas or currants in a cup of warm water. To prepare the cauliflower, remove the outer green leaves and break the cauliflower into small florets.
In a frying pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, saute the chopped onion in the olive oil. Add the anchovies and let them melt in the oil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the cauliflower florets, bay leaves and the fennel seeds. Stir gently over the heat to colour and coat the vegetable with oil.
Add the pine nuts, the saffron (and water) and the sultanas or currants with the soaking water, salt and crushed chillies.
At this stage I add a splash of white wine and a little stock). Cover, and allow to cook gently for about 20 minutes, until the florets are soft.
Cook the pasta. Drain and toss with the cauliflower sauce. Coat the pasta evenly and allow to absorb the flavours for about 5 minutes. Serve with toasted breadcrumbs or grated pecorino cheese.
The breadcrumbs add texture and flavour. Over time, instead of tossing coarse breadcrumbs, (100 grams made with day old, quality bread – sourdough/pasta dura) lightly fried in some oil, I also add grated lemon peel, a little cinnamon and sugar to the breadcrumbs while they are being toasted.