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Ditali Pasta with Cauliflower, Saffron and Tomato Cream Sauce

We made this Sicilian pasta dish by Rick Stein on Valentine’s Day and it was lovely.

Wine Suggestion: this dish needs a rich white wine to match the cream and saffron and a vibrancy for the anchovies. We opened a Gulfi Carjcanti, a Sicilian white made from the local carricante grape. Complex and refreshing with apples, blossom and hints of sea breezes on the nose and vibrant, juicy and mineral on the palate.

Ditali pasta with cauliflower, saffron and tomato cream sauce – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 25g anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets (discard the core) – about 750g
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-hot red chilli, seeded and finely chopped or ½ tsp crushed dried chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
  • a large pinch of saffron strands
  • 450g ditali or other small tubular pasta
  • 5 plum tomatoes from a tin
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • finely grated Parmesan, to serve

Melt the anchovies in a small frying pan over a lowish heat, then set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan, add the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper, then tip onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Heat the remaining 4 tbsp of oil in the same pan, add the cauliflower and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes without colouring, until starting to soften. Add the garlic, chilli, season and cook for another minutes.

Mix the sun-dried tomato paste with 120ml of water and stir this into the cauliflower. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes or until just tender.

Meanwhile, pour 50ml of warm water over the saffron strands and leave to soak.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add lots of salt (Rick suggests 8 tsp – we just add a load). Cook the pasta according to the timings on the pack.

Add the saffron water, tomatoes and anchovies to the cauliflower and season. Increase the heat slightly and cook uncovered until the cauliflower is very soft. You might need to break it up a bit with a wooden spoon to help it along. When the cauliflower is completely soft add the cream and the parsley.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the cauliflower mixture and toss everything together well and spoon into warm bowls. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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