I would never disagree with Mark Twain but when he said, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education,” he obviously never enjoyed Pasta con Cavolfiore. At least not my family’s recipe that is. So sorry, Mr. Clemens.
I don’t know about you but I love cooking cauliflower in the spring and summer.
When you think about it, it is very versatile and can be boiled, roasted, grilled, fried, baked and enjoyed raw. Cauliflower can be used as a vegetable side dish, puréed, as a soup and as a pasta sauce.
I love chopping the leaves and adding to my pasta sauces. To be honest I don’t throw hardly any of the cauliflower away and finely chop almost everything but the core.
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I cannot recall a visit to Sicily with my cousin that did not include this pasta and cauliflower. It is very simple to prepare. I do love the idea of finishing the pasta dish with toasted breadcrumbs before serving, so representative of the Sicilian cuisine.
My brother Leonard came up with the idea of adding the pasta directly to the sauce, boiling and finishing it that way. The pasta is really infused with the flavor of the cauliflower.
Here’s my family’s Sicilian recipe that I hope you prepare and enjoy. I sure wish Mark Twain were around so I could prepare some for my fellow Missourian.
Pasta con Cavolfiore
1 head fresh cauliflower
1 diced onion
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 cloves minced garlic
1 tomato, cubed
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and red chili pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 pound pasta
1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs
Clean and cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. In a medium pot, sauté onions in 3/4 cup olive oil. When onion is translucent, add garlic and sauté a few minutes. Do not burn. Add tomato and cauliflower along with chicken broth.
Let cook about 15 minutes. Add oregano, salt, pepper and parsley. Bring to a boil.
Add dry pasta and cook until pasta is al dente.
Serve in bowls and drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and toasted breadcrumbs.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.