Pasta with Cauliflower
(Pasta cu Vracculu Arriminatu)
In the Sicilian town of Polizzi Generosa, this pasta dish is made with the strongly flavored, deep green cauliflower called sparaceddu, cultivated in the Madonie Mountains—but American cauliflower works just as well.
- 2 tbsp. chopped oil-packed anchovies
- 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1 large head cauliflower, core removed, florets finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 lb. ditali or other small tubular pasta
- Pinch crumbled saffron
- 5 canned whole peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
- Place anchovies in a small skillet and cook, crushing with a spoon, over low heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside. Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet, heat remaining 5 tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring, until cauliflower begins to soften, 5–10 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Dissolve tomato paste in 1⁄2 cup water. Reduce heat to low, add tomato paste and mix thoroughly, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is very tender, 15–20 minutes.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve saffron in 1⁄3 cup hot water. Add saffron mixture, chopped tomatoes, and anchovies to sauce. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. Drain pasta, toss with sauce, season with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with parsley and toasted bread crumbs.