Bucatini with Saffron and Cauliflower is a traditional pasta dish from the beautiful island of Sicily. Sicily’s rich variety of foods have been greatly influenced by the early conquests of the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Spaniards who each ruled the island for hundreds of years. They all contributed ingredients that makes Sicilian food what it is today. The Sicilians owe this pasta dish, that is typical to the area around Palermo, to the Arabs. They brought saffron with them and brought the tradition of combining raisins and pine nuts with seafood and vegetables.
Cauliflower, a vegetable that grows abundantly around the city of Palermo, is also called cavolfiore, broccolo and vruoccoli on the island. You might see this pasta called pasta cui vruoccoli arriminati on a menu. In this recipe, pasta and cauliflower are mixed with contrasting sweet and salty flavors from a combination of raisins, cheese and anchovies. There is also a contrast in textures between the soft cauliflower, the al dente pasta and the wonderful crunch from toasted pine nuts and bread crumbs. Saffron gives this dish a lovely golden color. All in all, this is a nice combination that I think everyone will enjoy.
There is one ingredient that some people may question putting in the recipe and that is anchovies. I know that some of you may think that anchovies or the anchovy paste that I use in this recipe will make the dish fishy…it does not. Think of it as a flavor booster that gives another dimension to the dish. It creates a depth of flavor that is very important.
Bucatini With Saffron, Cauliflower And Toasted Bread Crumbs
The recipe makes two generous main dish portions, adjust the recipe accordingly.
- 8 oz. bucatini, perciatelli or thick spaghetti (approx. 4 oz. per person for main course)
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 c. olive oil plus extra to drizzle
- a pinch of saffron threads
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. or more anchovy paste or two small fillets mashed
- 1/2 tsp. chili flakes or to taste
- 1/4 c. raisins, plumped in a little water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted
- 3 Tbsp. grated Pecorino cheese
- 1/4 c. homemade course breadcrumbs drizzled with olive oil and toasted
- 1 Tbsp. parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the cauliflower. Cook for five minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towel. Remove a 1/4 cup of the hot water to a small bowl, add the saffron and let steep. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the par cooked cauliflower and let cook until just tender and starts to caramelize in spots. Add the garlic, anchovy paste, chili flakes and raisins and cook for one minute. Add the infused saffron water, salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the pasta is done.
Add the drained pasta to the cauliflower and stir well. If pasta appears dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Add the toasted pine nuts, cheese and parsley and toss to combine. Taste again for seasoning. Plate the pasta into warm bowls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with some of toasted bread crumbs. Serve extra breadcrumbs and cheese at the table.
This tradition Sicilian pasta with saffron and cauliflower mixed with raisins, pine nuts and toasted bread crumbs is delicious. It is a simple meal full of wonderful flavors and textures. Served with crusty bread and a glass of white wine, you can almost imagine enjoying this dish on the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Buon Appettio!
On A Personal Note: I have had some trouble being able to type recently…too much blogging, I presume. I am still reading everyone’s wonderful blogs but may not be able to comment as often as I wish I could. Hopefully giving my fingers a bit of a break should have me commenting on a regular basis soon. Thank you for understanding.