One of such dishes is the pasta with cauliflower sauce, a distinctive dish from Palermo.
We call it “arriminata” meaning literally mixed, but for us Palermitani, the word means mixed with love and patience. In fact, the arriminatura, the mixing, is the most important part of this preparation, where a wooden spoon has to be used and the stirring has to be slow and steady.
- 1 lb. pasta, preferably perciatelli or bucatini
- 2 medium size onions finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 head of cauliflower, stems discarded, washed, cut into florets and blanched
- 4 salted anchovy fillets rinsed. (Use up to 6 anchovies to suit your taste)
- 10 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (or chopped toasted almonds)
- 1/3 cup currants or raisins
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pinches of saffron, dissolved with a ladle of pasta water
- 4 oz grated pecorino or your favorite cheese
- 1. THE ONIONS
Over a medium flame, heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a 3 quart saucepan. Add diced onions, sauté until onions are golden, about 7 minutes. Set on the side.
- 2. THE BREADCRUMBS
In a 10 inch skillet, over a medium flame, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil add 2 tablespoons of sautéed onions and breadcrumbs. Keep stirring until crumbs are light brown. Place in a container and set aside.
- 3. THE SAUCE
In a 12 to 14 inch sauté pan, over high flame, transfer the remaining sauteed onions.
- Add the tomato paste and while stirring constantly, slowly add 2 cups of water. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower, raise heat to high and while stirring slowly, add 2 cups of water, a little at a time as the cauliflower attaching to the pan will turn lightly brown and acquire a unique smell and taste.
- Cook for additional 5 minutes over high heat. In a small plate, using a fork, mash the anchovies with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Lower the flame on the sauce, add anchovies, pine nuts, currants and simmer for about 10 minutes Add pepper to taste and check if salt is needed.
- 4. THE PASTA TOSSED WITH CAULIFLOWERS
Cook pasta according to manufacture’s directions reducing recommended cooking time by 2 minutes.
- Reserve a cup of water. Drain pasta and “arrimina” (toss) into the sauté pan with the sauce.
- Add the saffron and toss until pasta and sauce are well combined, add grated cheese and gently turn for about 2 minutes over a low heat.
- If it’s too dry, add some of the reserved water.
- Serve immediately garnished with breadcrumbs and serve remaining breadcrumbs on the side.
- 5. VARIATION
This pasta can be prepared in advance and baked at the last minute. Reduce suggested cooking time by 4 minutes.
- When you toss the pasta with the sauce add an additional ¼ cup of olive oil, a full cup of the reserved water, and pour in a greased pan 13X9X2 inch.
- If pan was refrigerated bring it to room temperature and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until hot.