Cauliflower Pasta with Almonds, Raisins and Saffron

There are a few key steps to making great pasta. Once you’ve mastered them, it’s easy to get a bit adventurous. I have historically been a recipe follower with pastas, but more lately I’m creating my own with ingredients I have on hand. First, it’s imperative to salt the pasta cooking water generously. I’m talking at least a tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water. This is the way to ensure flavorful pasta. The other must-not-forget step is to reserve some of the starchy cooking water for finishing the dish. This is what allows the flavors to come together so nicely. My children selected a head of orange cauliflower on a day it was cold and pouring rain at the market. It was one of three purchases I made that morning, too drenched to take much time to see what was for sale. Sometimes it’s nice to let the kids dictate the purchases…then develop the week’s menu from there. This pasta is what resulted.

  • 8 cups chopped cauliflower (1 medium head)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz. rigatoni
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (1 large)
  • 1 generous pinch saffron threads
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)
  • Place the chopped cauliflower florets in a large glass bowl. Add 1/2 cup water, then cover and microwave for 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave and allow it to sit covered while you prepare the other ingredients. The cauliflower will continue to soften, which shortens the skillet cooking time.
  • In a small bowl, combine the sherry vinegar with the golden raisins and 1 tablespoon of hot water. Allow to sit. The raisins should plump up nicely in about 15 minutes or so.
  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente.
  • Meanwhile, warm the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. The butter will melt, then foam just a bit before ultimately reaching a deep brown color and nutty smell, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots to the pan, stirring to coat with the browned butter. Add the saffron to the skillet and continue stirring for about 2 minutes, or until the shallots have softened and the saffron is fragrant. Drain any remaining water from the cauliflower bowl, then add the cauliflower to the skillet. Increase the heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sliced almonds and the raisins along with any remaining liquid from the bowl. Stir until heated through, about another minute, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Scoop a cup of starchy cooking water from the pasta pot just before draining. Drain the pasta, then place it back in the warm pot. Add the cauliflower mixture then stir to combine. Add the water a little at a time to bring everything together. Add the ricotta salata and the parsley, then give it one more stir. Top with crushed red pepper for a little heat, if desired.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. Use any short pasta you like here. Rigatoni is the perfect size and holds the “sauce” well.
  • 2. Ricotta salata is an Italian cheese that is similar to feta in flavor and texture. It adds a bit of salt to balance the sweetness of the cauliflower and raisins.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

2 responses to “Cauliflower Pasta with Almonds, Raisins and Saffron”

  1. lucylull says:

    You are interesting BUT all the salt you use is not good for everyone(raises blood pressure) and I cannot afford saffron– I use basil, parsley or other stuff like kale. I would like to receive weekly greens because you inspire me –I am a vegetarian vegan want to be.

    • Alicia says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lucy. A couple thoughts on the salt concerns. 1. Remember that you are salting the WATER and that only a very small amount of this salt is ending up in the food. All but a cup of that water ends up down the drain. Lots of flavor for very little added salt, actually. 2. Also keep in mind that by cooking fresh foods at home, you will be ingesting a lot less salt than if you were to eat in a restaurant or use processed, prepared foods. 3. Finally, as always, people who are limiting salt or saturated fat or whatever can typically just reduce or leave these items out of my recipes altogether. I often leave a note in “quick tips” to this effect, especially if there is a reasonable substitute. Thank you again for taking the time to comment and of course, for reading my work! I’m thrilled to hear you find inspiration here. Keep at it and you’ll no longer be a “want to be!” You’ll just BE. 🙂

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