The Call of the Cauliflower

My grandmother used to boil vegetables. I’d ride my bike to her house on East Lexington Ave. in Oceanside, NY and I’d walk in and smell boiled cabbage and carrots and cauliflower (the “C” vegetables) which she’d then top with Mrs. Dash. I thought it was wonderful—it’s one of the few taste memories I have from childhood.

Now that I’m a grandmother, you won’t find me boiling vegetables for my 18 grandchildren. Instead, you’ll find me using a technique I garnered from one Mr. Mario Batali. It’s from his new book “Molto Italiano” and the recipe is for “Penne con Cavolfiore” (That’s eye-talian for cauliflower.) Here’s what you do. Pour 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil into a saute pan and add 4 cloves of crushed garlic and saute until softened and light golden brown. Then add 1 head of cauliflower which you’ve cored and broken into florets:

Season with salt and pepper stir and cook until softened for 12 to 14 minutes. (I also added red chile flakes but I’m a fiery gramma.)


Then you lower the heat and simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes more. While all this is happening, boil some penne (1 pound) and cook until al dente. Drain it and add to the cauliflower:


Toss around, add chopped parsley, and grate some parmigiano over the top. That’s what I call a dinner! Though Mr. Batali’s “cavolfiore” will never displace my grandmother’s cauliflower—his parmigiano will can’t match her Mrs. Dash. Viva la grandma!

6 thoughts on “The Call of the Cauliflower”

  1. Mmmmm – that looks wonderful! Will try it soon. Have you ever boiled cauliflower florettes til just done, then dredged in flour and fried in butter til brown? Very tasty – especially the bits that get crunchy!

  2. Hi, from Canada. Have you ever tried roasted cauliflower? It’s awesome. Break it up into fairly large chunks, toss with olive oil, coarse salt, pepper and lightly with a garlic seasoning salt (I like the Club House Garlic Plus but I’m not sure if you have it in the US). Roast on 425 (yes, high) for 25-35 minutes. The flower part gets golden brown. An excellent,easy side dish. Try it!

  3. The possibilities are endless. Why not take Rene’s suggestion and mix it with some tagliatelle & parmeggianno.

    I’ve also been caught doing very similar things with broccoli instead of cauliflower. With broccoli you need less flavor-makers (such as olive oil, parm & salt), I think it has a little more flavor than cauliflower.

  4. Hey, Nico – I’ve used the same method for broccoli too. It’s also a great method for brussel sprouts. A lot of people hate these things but roasting them makes them less “strong” tasting and carmelizes the outside nicely. I roast baby bok choy also but toss in some chili garlic sauce or black bean sauce. Yum!

    Basically, roasting or grilling veggies intensifies the flavour versus boiling the crap out of them in water.

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