Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sicilian Pasta With Cauliflower

Pasta is a staple in our house, showing up on our table at least twice a week in some form.  For that reason, I am always on the lookout for new sauces or methods of preparation to keep things interesting.  As good as bowl of spaghetti marinara is, even that gets tiresome if eaten too often.  Cauliflower is a great accompaniment to pasta, and I often use it with cheese based sauces, but with the weather getting warmer my appetite craves something lighter.  The recipe below got my attention because in addition to the cauliflower, it made use of a couple other items I needed to use; the anchovies (left from last week's Cesar salad) and the fresh tomato from this week's share.  Best of all, the other flavors in this dish come from sources not based in dairy or oil.  Saffron, garlic, pine nuts, basil and raisins make for an amazing result.

I found the recipe for this dish in the New York Times dining section.  It has been tweaked a bit below to utilize ingredients I had on hand.

Share contents used:

1/4 cup golden raisins
Pinch of saffron threads
1 medium cauliflower, about 2 pounds, cut in to small florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1 lb fresh tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons slivered basil

Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. In another bowl combine the saffron with 3 tablespoons warm water. Let both sit for 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the cauliflower and boil gently until the florets are tender, about 7 minutes. Remove the cauliflower from the water (leaving the hot water in the pot), transfer to a bowl of cold water until cool and then drain. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. You will cook the pasta in the cauliflower water. Take any large florets and cut them into small florets or crumble coarsely using your hands.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute, then add the anchovies and tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Drain the raisins and add, along with the saffron and its soaking liquid, cauliflower, pine nuts, and about 1/4 cup of the cooking water from the cauliflower. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep warm while you cook the pasta.

Bring the cauliflower water back to a boil and cook the pasta. Transfer the cooked pasta to the pan with the sauce along with 1/4 cup of the pasta water (or more if the sauce seems too dry). Toss together with the Parmesan and basil leaves and serve.

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