When I first spied this dish in Saveur, I thought I was looking at some ground meat pasta sauce, and not one littered with cauliflower. I mean, where did it all go? I'm used to seeing nice large florets in my cauliflower dishes, not these finely chopped pieces. They looked like they could disappear into the sauce at any moment.
It's kind of amazing to see the vegetable used in a different way, and if you love cauliflower like I do, you'll definitely appreciate the nutty aroma. But it's really the anchovies and saffron that steal the show.
Two tablespoons of anchovies may not sound like that much, but they imbue every forkful of this dish with a rich, fishy funk. If that weren't enough, the saffron confuses the palate, sending taste buds in all kids of odd directions. It's exciting and racy, but it may be a tad too much. It's a brash event to eat this dish, which is not something I usually say about a cauliflower dish.
- 2 tablespoons oil-packed anchovies, chopped
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 head of cauliflower, stems removed, and florets finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound small tubular pasta
- Pinch saffron
- 5 canned whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon of the oil to a large skillet, turn the heat to medium-low, and add the bread crumbs. Stir well and cook until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Pour into a separate bowl and set aside.
Pour the rest of the oil into the now empty large skillet and turn the heat to medium. Add the cauliflower florets and cook until they are beginning to soften, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, and cook for a minute.
In a bowl, dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 cup water. Pour this mixture into the skillet. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very tender.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the directions on the box. When done drain.
Add the saffron to a small bowl and dissolve in 1/3 cup of warm water. Add this, the chopped tomatoes, and the anchovy paste to the large skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook until the sauce is thick. Dump in the cooked pasta, and stir well.
Serve the pasta with a sprinkling of bread crumbs and chopped parsley.