Recipe: Sicilian-style Spaghetti – Pasta con le Sarde

One can never have too many cookbooks.  But with the world going digital, cookbooks today are being downloaded on tablets and almost any recipe can be found online.  Although it certainly makes things more convenient, I still love grabbing my favorite cookbooks from the bookshelf, flipping through their glossy pages and finding inspiration from the beautiful photographs.  Sadly, I have to admit that of all the cookbooks I own, I’ve probably only made a handful of recipes from each — and when I do pull them out, I usually gravitate to the same recipes that I’ve made before.  This time I was excited to discover a new recipe from a cookbook I’ve had for years – “Tyler’s Ultimate” by Tyler Florence.

This Sicilian-style spaghetti recipe caught my eye because I love the heartiness of roasted charred cauliflower and because I have a growing obsession with anchovies.  Yes, anchovies!  I don’t have fond memories of anchovies growing up as it was always a strange pizza topping, or thanks to what I saw on cartoons, something you thought cats would eat.  However our recent trips to southern France and Italy really opened our eyes to how these little fish can add and change flavors in a dish and are actually quite versatile.  Most of the time you don’t even know they’re in there!  Here are the prep steps to making this delicious pasta dish followed by the full recipe that I adapted.

Break up two medium sized cauliflower heads into small florets.

Sicilian-style Spaghetti - cauliflower

In a small pan, toast 1/4 cup of pine nuts.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - pine nuts

Grab a handful of raisins.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - raisins

Crack open a can of anchovies and in a bowl, mash up 4 anchovies with 2 cloves of chopped garlic.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - anchovies

You will need 1/2 pound of spaghetti.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - pasta

Next up are the bread crumbs (I used Japanese panko).  Spread about 1/4 cup evenly on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and give them a quick toss.  Toast them for a few minutes until they are golden, but watch closely so they don’t burn.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - bread crumbs (panko)

Grab a lemon and 1/2 bunch of parsley.  I also added arugula to the pasta since I like the peppery taste and it added some pretty color to the dish.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - lemon, parsley, parmesan

The simple ingredients make this a great weeknight dinner.  This is a typical homestyle pasta dish found in Sicily.  While Sicilian food is predominately based on Italian food, it is also largely influenced by the combination of Spanish, Greek and Arab cultures.  This is one of those dishes that represents how beautifully a merging of culture and history can create delicious flavors in one dish and also how anchovies can be the secret ingredient.  It’s definitely getting bookmarked in my cookbook and will be in the rotation of favorite recipes.

Sicilian style Spaghetti - pasta, anchovies, bread crumbs, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, lemon, arugula, cauliflower

Sicilian-style Spaghetti:
Serves: 4

Kosher salt
2 medium heads of cauliflower, cored and broken into small florets
Approximately 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste with the side of a large knife
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound spaghetti
Leaves from 1/2 small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsely, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 handfuls of arugula
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

1.  Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

2.  Put the cauliflower into a saute pan with 1/4 cup olive oil, the anchovy fillets and minced garlic.  Heat over medium heat until the oil is hot and the anchovy starts to sizzle.  Add 1/4 cup water and season with salt.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and steam the cauliflower for about 5 minutes until just tender; uncover and cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the cauliflower browns in the oil.  Add the raisins and pine nuts and toss just to warm them through.  Take the pan off the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

3.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   On a baking sheet, drizzle the panko with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat the crumbs with the oil and spread out in an even layer; bake until lightly browned and crunchy, about 10 minutes.  Set that aside.

4.  When the water comes to a boil, get your spaghetti cooking; stir to separate the strands and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente.

5.  Drain the spaghetti and dump it into a bowl.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and toss so the pasta strands don’t stick together.  Dump the cauliflower mixture over the spaghetti, add the parsley, lemon juice and arugula and fold it all together.  Now dust with the toasted panko and cheese and toss again.  Serve with extra cheese.

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