For this traditional Sicilian dish, bucatini are used, but any long pasta is all right. The sauce is sensational and complex; the flavour of the cauliflower is transformed by the other ingredients.
Boil the cauliflower in a large pan of salted water until tender and drain, reserving the liquid. Soak the raisins and saffron separately in warm water to cover. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion until it is lightly coloured. Stir in the anchovy fillets, mashing them with a fork until they disintegrate. Drain the raisins, add the pine nuts, raisins and the saffron in its water to the pan and stir well. Put in the cauliflower florets and a ladleful or 2 of the reserved cooking water. Crush them against the base and sides of the pan with a wooden spoon until they are in very small pieces and you have a thick sauce. Season with pepper and taste to see if any salt is needed (the anchovies provide salt).
Heat the remaining cauiflower water and boil the bucatini until al dente. Drain, again reserving the liquid. Stir the pasta into the sauce, using a little of the cooking water to thin it if necessary. Serve at once with the basil leaves scattered over and grated cheese to accompany it.
To serve the cauliflower as a vegetable dish with a raisin and pine nut sauce, boil the cauliflower until almost tender. Make the sauce as described above but do not crush the cauliflower. Instead, use a little more of the cooking water to make a thinner sauce, add the florets and simmer for 5 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Serve garnished with basil, but omit the cheese.
© 2005 Jill Norman. All rights reserved.