Pantescan Pasta With Capers, Olives and Tomatoes
Sicily is famous for its sweet, abundant cauliflower. Pantelleria is famous for its capers. Capers are berries from a hearty shrub that thrives on this arid island. The jarred capers in stores are picked before ripeness, when they’re tight little buds. They’re then preserved in salt or brine. A scattering of capers imparts a natural, plant-based, fish-free flavor of the sea. Botanically speaking, though, capers are fruit. So are olives and tomatoes. These Pantescan fruits all come together with Sicilian cauliflower in this easy but primal pasta dish worthy of International Mediterranean Diet Month. Serve with a sexy, brash Sicilian vino rosso.
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 2 cups cauliflower about half a head of cauliflower, broken into small, bite-sized pieces
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or 1 tablespoon fresh red chili minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup white wine or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons kalamatas pitted and chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers rinsed and drained
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne or other short pasta
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil from 1 good-sized sprig coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley from 1 good-sized sprig, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves from 1 good-sized sprig or
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- optional garnish — a good handful of roasted chopped almonds (another Pantescan crop) or toasted breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour grape tomatoes and cauliflower pieces into an oven-proof casserole. Add minced garlic and chili flakes. Drizzle in olive oil and white wine or broth. Gently toss so cauliflower and tomatoes are coated.
Roast tomatoes and cauliflower for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tomatoes have blistered and popped and cauliflower has darkened in spots. May be done 2 hours ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and prepare according to package directions (tips from pasta pros here). Cook just until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
Return the drained pasta to the pot. Add tomatoes and cauliflower, scraping in any accumulated juices. Pour in 1/4 cup pasta cooking water and stir. The starchiness of the pasta water will bond with the tomatoes to form just enough of a sauce to hug the pasta. For a saucier pasta, add additional pasta water 1/4 cup at a time to reach the desired consistency.
Scatter in chopped olives, capers and herbs. Toss gently to combine. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Top with chopped roasted almonds or toasted breadcrumbs.