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 vehicles are a well-recognized however all the time hanging sight in Italy. Particularly this one, with its significantly 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 facet of the highway. I believe I attempted to take an image, however it was another person within the automobile who summed up the scene: “Joker truck,” they mentioned. I didn’t perceive what they meant instantly, however once I did, all earlier descriptions – cumulus clouds, cream-coloured curds – disappeared, and all I may 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 once I decide up a cauliflower. Even a freshly minimize one with cream curds and sculpted leaves from my buddy 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 identify for this dish is vruócculi arriminati. Vruócculi is dialect for broccoli, however in Palermo and in addition in Gela, cavolfiore (cauliflower) is commonly referred to as broccoli. And what about arriminati? I just lately got here throughout an inventory of Sicilian phrases which might be troublesome to translate, and arriminati is famous as being closest to rimescolati, which implies blended 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 believe, 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 nearly cream, with the pasta.
It’s elective, however inspired, to high reshuffled cauliflower, onions and anchovy with toasted breadcrumbs. The easiest way to toast them – both high quality dry crumbs or softer ones – is to take action in a frying pan with two tablespoons of olive oil and a superb pinch of salt over a medium-low warmth. Use a picket spoon to maneuver them across the pan till they’re evenly colored and odor like digestive biscuits. Even with crumbs, this dish is just not meant to be fairly, however liberating pasta, and actors, from that strain is an effective 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 elements. Raise from the water and put aside, holding 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 mushy. 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 of cauliflower water and add this over the past minute, stirring so the combination goes mushy and sauce-like.
Convey 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 immediately into the cauliflower pan, and toss and swish so the elements come collectively. Divide between plates and high with the toasted crumbs.