Sicilian Cauliflower Pasta | “Pasta con i Broccoli Arriminati” Recipe
Updated: Mar 18
When my Calabrian wife, Eva, told me that this cauliflower pasta is one of Italy’s “best pasta dishes,” I was sure she was exaggerating. And then I tasted it… I should have known she wasn’t lying—do you understand how difficult it is for a Calabrian to give such a big compliment to Sicily?
“Pasta con i Broccoli Arriminati” is an extraordinary dish, one that is probably unlike any kind of pasta you’ve tried before. Like a lot of Sicilian food, it embraces a sweet and sour flavor that’s to die for. The cauliflower, onions and raisins provide the sweet while the olive oil, anchovies and black pepper keep it rooted with savory bite.
What Makes Cauliflower Pasta So Great?
Because cauliflower works equally well with sweet and savory tastes (check out our cauliflower dessert fritters!), it lends itself perfectly to the flavors of Sicilian cuisine. Beyond the great flavor, though, is an equally impressive texture. Here we see another form of contrast: the cauliflower cooks down into a creamy mash which is then paired with a crunchy, breadcrumb topping.
The Right Pasta Shape
Traditionally, bucatini is used. We highly recommend sticking to this shape, because it’s perfect. Not that we can explain why! Sometimes certain pasta shapes work with a particular sauce in a totally ineffable way. This is one of those dishes.
Not that a thick spaghetti wouldn’t be great, but bucatini is just amazing with this sauce.
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make Cauliflower Pasta here:
PASTA CON I BROCCOLI ARRIMINATI RECIPE
Makes: 2 servings
Cook Time: 45 minutes
For this recipe, you will need:
1/2 cup (80g) raisins
About 1/2 of a large cauliflower head, trimmed into florets
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced
4 anchovies (preserved under oil)
Fresh black pepper
1/4 cup (35g) dry bread crumbs
3 tbsp (30g) pine nuts
5.5 oz. (160g) bucatini pasta, or two servings to taste
Tongs or a spaghetti fork
Place the raisins in a small bowl of warm water and leave them to soak.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Add the cauliflower florets and boil until tender—about 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside. Don’t throw away the water! In fact, keep it simmering on the stove: we’ll use it to help make the sauce and pasta.
Add 3 tbsp of olive oil and the sliced onion into a large skillet and bring up to medium heat. Once the onion is tender, add the anchovies and stir them in until they break apart and begin to dissolve.
Add the boiled cauliflower, plus a few ladlefuls of the hot cauliflower water. Bring the liquid to a simmer, add a generous sprinkle of black pepper, and let the cauliflower cook for about 10 minutes. As needed, continue to add more hot water into the pan to maintain moisture and a healthy simmer.
While the cauliflower cooks, you can toast the bread crumbs. Add the remaining olive oil into a small skillet over high heat. Pour in the bread crumbs and toast them, stirring or tossing frequently, until they are browned and crispy. Stir in some black pepper to taste and set aside for later.
After the cauliflower has been cooking for about 10 minutes, drain the raisins and add them into the pan, along with the pine nuts. Continue to simmer the sauce, adding hot water as needed, and mash the cauliflower with a fork as it softens. You should have a thick, creamy sauce in the end.
Bring the cauliflower water back to a rolling boil and add the pasta in. Cook as directed by the package, but set a timer for 2-3 minutes less than the recommended “al dente” cook time. When the pasta is ready, use tongs to transfer it into the sauce. Stir all together over medium/high heat until the pasta is al dente to your taste. Add hot water as needed to thin the sauce and keep it simmering until the pasta is cooked.
Serve immediately, topped with plenty of the toasted bread crumbs.