My Sicilian mother was an amazing home chef and growing up, this was one of my favorite meals. I had all but forgotten about it until I was at a fancy pre-fixe (pre-selected) chef's dinner where I was delightfully surprised by its appearance as one of the courses. Sadly absent from most Italian restaurants, I hadn't realized it was a traditional Sicilian dish.
Recently on a rare trip to Trader Joe's I discovered a bag of frozen organic tri-color cauliflower and decided to reinvent the recipe to the best of my memory. Only after I prepared and wrote the recipe down did I decide to search the internet for other recipes. I discovered several variations that included anchovy filets, saffron, and parsley garnish though I don't believe my mother used any of those and so neither did I but you could always experiment with this.
I did top mine with real parmesan cheese though I don't usually eat dairy. I just didn't want to mess with the tastes I remember as a child. However, this meal could very easily be made vegan by using a vegan parmesan and butter and would still be absolutely delicious.
This meal comes together very quickly, about half an hour. However, be sure you are ready to be attentive because it is hands-on. Totally worth it though! I was very happy at the final outcome and it was sweet to see my 2 year old daughter enjoy it as much as I did as a child.
I hope you love it! If you make it, please let me know in the comments section.
Mom's Sicilian Cauliflower & Raisin Pasta
4-6 servings, 30 minutes
10 oz. fusilli or other short gluten-free pasta
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion diced
16 oz frozen cauliflower
3/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp vegan butter, divided
6 cloves minced garlic
chopped fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
black pepper & pecorino or parmesan cheese to garnish
Prepare pasta according to package directions, strain, and set aside. Reserve a cup of hot water.
Pour pasta water over raisins in a bowl to plump up and set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a sauté pan over medium heat until golden and fragrant ~ about 1 minute. Be mindful here as they do burn easily.
Add 3 Tbsp olive oil and diced onion to a saute pan and cook over med-high heat until translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add frozen cauliflower to to the pan plus 1/3 cup of water. Cook med-high until cauliflower are thawed and tender, about 5-6 minutes. You may need to add additional water in small amounts but we want it to all cook off in the end so add in small amounts to avoid making it soupy.
Once cauliflower are thawed and tender, make sure there is no water in the pan. Add another 2 Tbsp olive oil and the salt. Sauté until beginning to brown (another 5 min) while flipping & breaking up the bigger pieces of cauliflower with a spatula.
Reduce heat to low, add raisins, 2 Tbsp vegan butter and the garlic. Cook and stir constantly until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Again, be mindful here as garlic burns easily.
Move this mixture to the original pasta pot, then add the pasta, pine nuts (reserve a small amount for garnish) and toss with another 2 Tbsp of butter over low heat for a few minutes until the butter is melted & the pasta mixture is warmed back through.
Dish into individual serving bowls and garnish with black pepper, cheese, and reserved pine nuts.
As always, let me know if you make this favorite dish of mine. I hope you enjoy it!