Spread the Happiness – Rigatoni con Cavolfiore, Uvetta e Pinoli

I’m starting this blog with a recipe that in many ways epitomizes what I love about Italian cooking: simple ingredients, careful preparation – yet without unnecessary fuss – and amazing flavours. In fact, it also epitomizes what I love about cooking: discovering a taste so fantastic that it makes you happy and smiley for the rest of the day. I have already shared this happiness with three other people so it is now time to start spreading it virtually!

When I first saw this receipe “Rigatoni with cauliflower, raisins and pine nuts” (in a book called “Oggi cucino io 4”), I was dubious. Combining cauliflower with pasta sounded very bland whereas raisins mainly reminded me of some less fortunate traditional Finnish dishes. Yet as one of my many desperate attempts to fight off the approaching middle-agedness, I decided to bravely step out of my comfort zone and give this dish a chance. And mamma mia, was it worth it!

I recently read in a foodie magazine that cauliflower is predicted to be the “It” vegetable of this year. Hence in addition to the culinaristic pleasure of this lovely dish, you will get the additional bonus of being all hip and trendy (another cure for that middle-agedness if needed).

Anyway, enough blabbering for the first post. I’ll let the recipe do the talking:

Rigatoni with Cauliflower, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Serves 4-6

500 g rigatoni

1 small cauliflower, cut into small chunks

60 g raisins

60 g pine nuts

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 big onion, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon saffron

2 tablespoons water

6 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped + leaves for garnish

60 g pecorino, grated

salt, pepper

Cook the cauliflower until it is al dente in a sufficient amount of boiling water and salt. Remove the cauliflower from the pot and keep the cooking water for later use (don’t worry if you forget to do this; I’ve done it twice and the dish tastes still great without the cooking water…). Heat one half of the olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Let them cook gently for 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add the saffron and water and stir well. Combine the cauliflower with the onions, cover the pan and let it cook for five minutes with a soft flame (which I presume means at low/ medium heat). Put the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan, add the anchovy fillets and stir until the fillets have “dissolved” in the oil. Pour the anchovy mix into the pan with the cauliflower and add the raisins and pine nuts. In the meantime, cook the rigatoni in the cooking water of the cauliflower until they are al dente. Combine the rigatoni with the sauce, add the basil and pecorino, mix gently and serve warm.