Driving on the outskirts of Gela in Sicily final summer time, we handed a truck, its open again filled with pea-green, electric-purple and white cauliflowers. Such vans are a well-known however all the time putting sight in Italy. Particularly this one, with its notably excessive wall of tricolour heads, just a few of which had toppled off and rolled into the highway, the place they’d met with a messy finish. We stopped for petrol and lemonade at a storage on the other aspect of the highway. I feel I attempted to take an image, however it was another person within the automotive who summed up the scene: “Joker truck,” they mentioned. I didn’t perceive what they meant instantly, however after I did, all earlier descriptions – cumulus clouds, cream-coloured curds – disappeared, and all I might see had been inexperienced shirts, purple fits and white faces: a pile of Jokers from Batman.
Months later, and it’s nonetheless the very first thing that involves thoughts after I decide up a cauliflower. Even a freshly reduce one with cream curds and sculpted leaves from my pal Carla Tomasi’s backyard is a vegetable of nice magnificence, with one thing of Jack Nicholson about it.
The Sicilian and, extra particularly. the Palermitano title for this dish is vruócculi arriminati. Vruócculi is dialect for broccoli, however in Palermo and likewise in Gela, cavolfiore (cauliflower) is commonly referred to as broccoli. And what about arriminati? I not too long ago got here throughout an inventory of Sicilian phrases which are tough to translate, and arriminati is famous as being closest to rimescolati, which implies combined once more or reshuffled, and is used to explain each taking part in playing cards and pasta. It’s an odd translation, I do know, “pasta with reshuffled cauliflower”, however a useful one, I feel, particularly in case your concept of shuffling is the granny shuffle: that’s, to throw all of them down and blend wildly. As a result of, like smash earlier than cucumber or whip earlier than cream, it emphasises the significance of the motion. The primary shuffle of the boiled cauliflower with oil, onion, anchovy; the second shuffle, of what’s now an virtually cream, with the pasta.
It’s elective, however inspired, to prime reshuffled cauliflower, onions and anchovy with toasted breadcrumbs. The easiest way to toast them – both advantageous dry crumbs or softer ones – is to take action in a frying pan with two tablespoons of olive oil and a great pinch of salt over a medium-low warmth. Use a picket spoon to maneuver them across the pan till they’re frivolously colored and scent like digestive biscuits. Even with crumbs, this dish is just not meant to be fairly, however releasing pasta, and actors, from that stress is an efficient factor.
Pasta with cauliflower, onion and anchovy
Prep 5 min
Cook dinner 20 min
1 giant cauliflower
6 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
4-6 anchovy fillets
30g currants (elective)
30g flaked almonds or pine nuts (elective)
5 saffron strands
400g brief pasta – bucatini, casarecce, mezze maniche, fusilli
Trim and break the cauliflower into giant florets. Cook dinner them in well-salted, boiling water till simply tender – solely simply, as a result of they’re going to cook dinner additional in with the opposite substances. Raise from the water and put aside, retaining the water for the pasta.
In a big frying pan over a medium-low flame, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion and salt, stirring till the onion is gentle. Add the anchovies, currants and almonds or pine nuts (if utilizing), and cook dinner for a minute extra.
Add the cauliflower, stir, then add two ladlefuls of the cauliflower cooking water and simmer for 5 minutes. Dissolve the saffron in a bit cauliflower water and add this over the last minute, stirring so the combo goes gentle and sauce-like.
Carry the cauliflower water again to a boil, add the pasta and cook dinner till al dente.
In the meantime, in one other pan, toast the breadcrumbs within the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with a pinch of salt, till golden brown and smelling like digestive biscuits. Put the cauliflower combine again on the warmth to heat via, including some pasta cooking water if it appears dry.
When the pasta is al dente, drain or carry it instantly into the cauliflower pan, and toss and swish so the substances come collectively. Divide between plates and prime with the toasted crumbs.