Sicily was ruled by Arabs in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and their culinary legacy lives on in the use of ingredients like saffron, raisins, and pine nuts in the island’s cooking. Here all three are combined with the humble cauliflower to create a memorable pasta dish. This recipe can be found in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook.
a pinch of saffron threads
1 small-medium cauliflower, chopped
into small florets
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
1 bay leaf
14 ounces whole-wheat mafalda corta pasta
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 heaping tablespoons freshly chopped
freshly grated vegetarian Parmesan to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons boiling water and set aside.
Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 4 minutes until tender. Scoop the cauliflower out of the pan, drain, and set aside, and reserve the water.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the onion, and cook over medium heat until tender but not colored. Add the garlic and chile and cook for an additional minute. Add the raisins and pine nuts to the pan and continue to cook until the pine nuts are toasted and lightly golden.
Add the cauliflower, steeped saffron, sun-dried tomato paste, and bay leaf to the pan along with 1/2 cup of the cauliflower cooking water. Season and cook over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes, lightly mashing the cauliflower with the back of a wooden spoon to make a sauce and adding more water if necessary if it starts to look dry.
Meanwhile cook the mafalda corta in the cauliflower water according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the water, and put the pasta into the sauté pan with the cauliflower sauce. Add the lemon juice and chopped parsley and stir to combine. Add some of the reserved water if needed. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan.