Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower-Pasta chi Vruocculi Arriminati is a delicious combination of traditional Sicilian ingredients. Cauliflower is combined with exotic flavors like sweet raisins, bright saffron, the crunch of pine nuts and homemade breadcrumbs. Ready in under 30 minutes!
There have been so many recipes I have been meaning to share here with all of you from my dad’s beloved region of Sicily. One dish that brings back so many memories of dad and his cooking is “pasta chi vruocculi arriminati” also called “pasta cu vrùocculi ‘rriminati". The name in Sicilian translates to “pasta that is mixed with cauliflower”, because arriminari is translated to stirred or mixed, but it also could refer to mixing it with seasonings/flavors.
Sicilian food may seem really unusual and different compared to traditional Italian recipes that have become famous in America (and the rest of the world). What makes this pasta so very Sicilian is that it is made with raisins, anchovies, saffron and pine nuts. These are classic Sicilian ingredients that blend together in a magical and unique way.
These are flavors in savory Sicilian dishes that go all the way back to the centuries of Arabs ruling this incredible island (don’t forget, Sicily had many different conquerors that left their mark on their food, which makes it all so fascinating and delicious!).
The Saracens (Arabs) conquered the Western side of Sicily in 827 and it is still today known as the Arab side of Sicily, with Palermo as its capitol, which is where this pasta dish was created. And the Eastern side of Sicily is referred to as the Greek side of Sicily. Which is the side of Sicily my dad is from and in my genetics, I am part Greek!
If you haven’t explored traditional Sicilian recipes, you may be surprised to learn that raisins, pine nuts, anchovies and even saffron are a part of many of their recipes. Sweet, savory and absolutely delicious when combined together. The one thing I insist you do with the recipe is top it off with the homemade breadcrumbs. It is just that special and simple touch that brings the subtle sweetness all together.
This is all a part of my #projectsicilia. This is my 3rd recipe for this year. When nonno (my dad) passed away, I had a personal goal to share Sicilian recipes dad used to make or that was a part of my childhood in Sicily. Food memories for my children to one day try and to learn about their Sicilian food culture.
- January : I shared the Sicilian Scacciata with Cauliflower.
- February: I shared an Eggplant Timbale-Timbalo di Melanzane
- March: Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower (posted today)
What ingredients are in Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower
- Cauliflower: The star of this pasta is the cauliflower. In Sicily, you will see this made with the purple cauliflower (which they call “u basturdu”). Keep in mind that in Sicily, broccoli actually refers to cauliflower (I know, it’s a little confusing). But this dish could be made with either cauliflower or broccoli. Or fioretto, if you happen to find them.
- Pine nuts: AKA pinoli. Pine nuts can now be found at any market and also online. It really is a essential to use to make this dish authentic.
- Stale bread: In Sicilian it is called “muddica”. You could use store bought bread crumbs, but if you happen to have any leftover sourdough bread on hand, as I did, it will make the most wonderful topping for this recipe.
- Olive oil: I used Sicilian extra-virgin olive oil. The better the quality of the olive oil, the better the flavor of the entire dish.
- Onion: I used a sweet onion, you could use a white onion or even a shallot. I never made this with garlic (it’s not typical to use garlic for this in Sicily), but if you want to try with garlic, go ahead and see if you like it.
- Anchovy fillets: This is also an authentic addition to the recipe. IF you are vegan, leave it out. If you do not like the flavor of anchovy, leave it out.
- Raisins: Raisins are really essential to make this dish true to its origin and it adds a delicate sweetness to every bite.
- Saffron: Saffron, AKA the spice of the Gods, adds a subtle, mysterious flavor and a gorgeous color to the dish. I have found saffron at every market near me, so should be easy to find (and of course, really easy to find online), this is another Saracen (Arab) ingredient that still remains in many traditional Sicilian dishes.
How To Make Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower
Here is what I did to make this delightful Sicilian pasta recipe.
First thing is to gather all the ingredients.
To make the sauce, the first thing you do is cook up the cauliflower.
I happened to be lucky and found at my local fruit/veg market some fioretto. Fioretto is actually a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower. It happens to have a more delicate and sweet flavor than standard cauliflower. It even has small florets that you may find looks similar to broccoli. They aren't easy to come across, so keep in mind, standard cauliflower is also great for this recipe!
You’re not cooking it until it’s mushy. It should be tender when you poke it with a fork. And keep in mind, it will cook up a little more with the rest of the ingredients in the sauté pan.
While the cauliflower is boiling, you could do some other steps.
While the cauliflower is cooking, prep the raisins by placing them in a small bowl and covering with warm water to plump them up.
In another small bowl, add the saffron and cover with 2 tablespoons of warm water.
In a small sauce pan, toast up the pine nuts.
When they are golden brown, set aside the pine nuts and add bread crumbs to same pan with a little olive oil and toast them up. Set the bread crumbs aside.
In a large sauce pan, heat up olive oil and begin by sautéing the onion and adding chopped anchovy fillets. The anchovies melt away with the onion and add a subtle kick of umami (salty flavor).
To that you add in the raisins (drained) and the toasted pine nuts (I left mine whole, but feel to chop them into smaller pieces).
Next, add in the cauliflower and saffron (with its liquid)and stir everything and let it simmer for just a few minutes while the pasta cooks.
Drain the pasta and add it in to the pan with the cauliflower sauce ingredients and some reserved pasta water.
The pasta gets plated up and the final addition is a sprinkling of the toasted bread crumbs. And of course, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Which pasta shape is best for Sicilian pasta with Cauliflower?
I used spaghetti, but traditionally it’s made with bucatini. It also could be enjoyed with linguine, penne, rigatoni or even fusili. Basically, whatever shape you love the most!
Is this Sicilian pasta with Cauliflower vegan?
Yes, if you omit the anchovies, this pasta is totally vegan/vegetarian.
Can I make this Sicilian pasta with Cauliflower gluten-free?
Yes, you can make it gluten-free! Simply sub your favorite gluten-free pasta brand and use gluten-free bread crumbs.
How do you store leftovers?
If you happen to have any leftovers, once it has cooled down, store the pasta in a storage container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Some other pasta recipes to try:
- Pasta with Ricotta and Peas
- Roasted Cherry Tomato and Tuna Pasta
- Ziti al Forno-Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce
- Bucatini alla Carbonara
Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower-Pasta chi Vruocculi Arriminati
- 1 whole cauliflower roughly chopped into florets, (* I used fioretto)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 ounces stale bread should make about 1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra to serve (I used extra-virgin Sicilian)
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 4 canned anchovy fillets or anchovy paste optional, optional *if you omit, this pasta is vegan
- 1/4 cup raisins or currants
- 1 teaspoon saffron strands
- 1 pound pasta bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the cauliflower and cook until soft and tender (but not mushy), about 10-15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and set aside in a large bowl. Turn off the heat and save the water in the pot to cook the pasta.
- While the cauliflower is cooking, prep the raisins by placing them in a small bowl and covering with warm water to plump them up.
- In another small bowl, add the saffron and cover with 2 tablespoons of warm water.
- In a small sauce pan in medium heat, add the pine nuts and toast them until golden brown (keep a good eye on them and be sure to move them around with a wooden spoon so they don’t burn). When nice and golden brown, set them aside in a small bowl.
- Prep the bread crumbs by cutting the bread into small portions. Add it to a food processor and pulse until you get coarse crumbs.
- In the pan you toasted the pine nuts, add a tablespoon of olive oil and turn the heat to medium. Add in the bread crumbs. Let them toast up and stir them with a wooden spoon (so that they don’t brown too much on one side). As soon as they are nice and crispy and a dark golden color, place them in a small bowl and set aside.
- Bring the pot of water that you cooked the cauliflower in to a boil and add more water to the pot (if needed). When water is boiling, add in the pasta and cook until al dente, following time suggestion on the pasta box.
- Place a large frying pan on the stove to medium heat and add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil has heated, add in the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).
- If you are using anchovies, add them in now and stir them together with the onions. They will break up and melt together with the onions.
- Drain the raisins and add them in. Also add in the toasted pine nuts. Lower the heat and stir it all together.
- Add the cauliflower and the saffron water to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to stir it all together, breaking up any large pieces of the cauliflower. Season with salt.
- When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and reserve a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and some of the reserved pasta water to the pan with the cauliflower sauce. Stir everything together. If needed, add some more of the reserved pasta water and stir together with the pan on the heat (be sure not to keep it too long on the heat as you don't want the pasta to overcook and get mushy). Check the seasoning and add more salt, if needed, and freshly ground pepper.
- Add the pasta to a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle on some really good extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs on top. Serve immediately and ENJOY!
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.