Sicilian veggie pasta with cauliflower


Truth be told, I never thought I’d find myself raving about a veggie pasta dish featuring cauliflower. I never liked this veg, in any form, so you can imagine my expression when presented with the idea of learning to make this dish while on holiday in Sicily.

veggie pasta recipe

But how wrong was I? Wrong I tell you... as wrong as seafood with short pasta or salad with lasagna. This Sicilian pasta recipe is so scrummy I reckon it will convert any cauli-hater, and because it’s virtually calorie-free health-obsessives should also love it.

While it takes an hour, it’s certainly not tricky to prepare: first, slow-cook the cauliflower, breaking it into smaller chunks as you go to create a lusciously creamy sauce. Then combine with translucent water-fried white onion, crunchy pine nuts, fruity raisins, a dash of warming saffron and a smidge of chilli for a little kick off the spoon. The result is a very moreish and surprisingly filling veggie pasta.

And the lady responsible for my cauli-conversion?

Sicilian pasta recipe Mandranova agriturismo SicilyThe lovely Silvia from a fantastic ‘agriturismo’ hotel farm in Sicily called Mandranova. What a cook that lady is! (If you’re ever heading to this most charming of foodie islands, be sure to check out Mandranova’s web site here; I can’t recommend the place highly enough.)

Rambling over then, let’s cook…

Serves 3-4 (based on size of cauliflower)


- 1 small cauliflower

- 400g/14oz short pasta

- 2 white onions

- 2 tablespoons of raisins (chopped)

- 1 sachet (½ teaspoon) saffron powder

- 3 tablespoons of pine nuts/seeds

- ½ teaspoon dried chilli (chopped) / chili powder

- 500ml/17.5 fl oz water

- Extra virgin olive oil

- Salt

- Pecorino/parmesan cheese (to grate)

STEP 1 – First we’ll prep the onions.

- Peel and chop these quite finely, then add chopped onions to a frying pan with the first 150ml/5 fl oz of water.

- Cook on medium heat hob, gradually adding and evaporating the rest of the water (until it is all gone) for around 20 minutes, until the onion softens and turns translucent. Then take off heat.

STEP 2 – Now the cauliflower part of this veggie pasta (if you feel confident to overlap, you can do this bit while the onions are cooking):

- Chop off cauliflower’s stalk, remove leaves and break into its natural chunks.

- Boil cauliflower in a big full pan of salted water (use a a good handful of salt) until the veg turns very soft (approx. 10-15 mins).

- When done, drain the water directly into another pan (we’ll use this water to cook the pasta later), leaving just the soft cauliflower chunks.

- When cool, break the cauliflower into small pieces with your fingers.

STEP 3 – Pop the first onion pan on a low heat hob and add: the cauliflower, saffron powder, chili, raisin chunks, two tablespoons of olive oil and two ladels (10 tablespoons) of cauliflower water.

- Cook on this low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquidity is gone and the sauce turns creamy (5-7 minutes).

STEP 4 – Boil the pan of cauliflower water until water, add a sprinkle more salt, and add the pasta. Cook as per packet’s suggested timings (or just 2 mins if you made it fresh).

- To finish, simply drain the pasta and serve with a dollop of sauce on top, or else mix through in the sauce pan and serve already mixed.


To serve: grate a little hard parmesan or pecorina cheese on top of each bowlful. This dish also goes really well with a nice crisp white wine.

Next time…
In the pic above you’ll see I used a short multicolored Venetian pasta based on different flower shapes (the name of which escapes me, sorry). However the typical Sicilian name for this dish is ‘maltagliati al cavolfiore’ (cauliflower maltagliati).

So you’d do really well to twin this cauliflower sauce with fresh homemade maltagliati (lit: roughly cut pasta shapes): see my maltagliati guide.

Enjoyed this Sicilian veggie pasta?

Here are a couple more:

• The Super Sicilian: it's one molten vegetable pasta recipe

• Cracking Crunch: pesto pistachio recipe

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