Sicilian Pasta and Cauliflower Gratin (Gratin di Mezze Maniche al Cavolfiore)

Viaggiando con Bea is one of the Italian blogs that I follow to get inspiration and feedback on my Italian recipes directly from the source. A while ago she published a recipe for a Sicilian side dish with cauliflower called Cavolfiore affucatu. I served it as a pasta dish instead, and when I told Bea she said that she prefers to prepare pasta with cauliflower in a different way. I asked her how, and that is how today’s recipe came about.

It is very Sicilian with besides pasta and cauliflower all the usual suspects as ingredients: pine kernels, raisins, breadcrumbs, anchovies, and Sicilian pecorino. The pasta shape used for this is called mezze maniche rigate,  or half ribbed sleeves. Except for a small difference in size they are identical to mezzi rigatoni. If you can’t find either of them, penne rigate will also do the trick.

I don’t make pasta gratin often, so this was very nice for a change. This is yet another tasty pasta dish that is easy to prepare. Here’s what I did, inspired by Bea’s suggestion.


For 2 servings

150 grams (.33 lb) mezze maniche rigate

400 grams (.9 lb) cauliflower florets

6 anchovy fillets, minced

2 Tbsp pine kernels

2 Tbsp raisins, soaked in warm water

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


freshly grated pecorino cheese, preferably Sicilian


Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat until golden.

Add half the anchovies…

…as well as the pine kernels and drained raisins. Stir for a minute.

Now add the cauliflower florets and stir again for a minute.

Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water.

Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is barely cooked.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook a few minutes less than indicated for al dente.

Drain the pasta.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan and add the breadcrumbs as well as the remaining anchovies. Stir over medium heat until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Stir the cauliflower now and then and add more of the pasta cooking water if needed.

When the cauliflower is barely cooked, add the pasta.

Stir and allow the flavors to blend for a minute. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF.

Lightly grease an oven proof dish (or individual oven proof plates) and arrange the pasta mixture in the dish.

Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Cover with a nice layer of freshly grated pecorino.

Bake in the oven just until the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes.

Allow to rest for a minute or so before serving.

10 thoughts on “Sicilian Pasta and Cauliflower Gratin (Gratin di Mezze Maniche al Cavolfiore)

  1. This looks so comforting, especially with the cauliflower, mezze maniche rigate pasta and oozing, melted cheese. The anchovies definitely speak to me, and raisins are something I didn’t realize was Sicilian. The touch of sweetness must be a lovely contrast to the salty cheese and “umami” anchovies. More beautiful photos and a well-prepared recipe for your blog!


  2. I never thought of quick baking pasta right into the serving plates, and I find that really convenient and smart and reminds of one thing I’ve have yet to try is to warm up the plates in the oven as you so many times have suggested and i have so many times forgotten to do 🙂 thanks Stefan! and by the way, anchovies and cauliflower is an amazing pairing!


  3. Do lik ethis approach and shall surely copy during the week to come!! Have all ingredients so it is just a matter of meal and method 🙂 !


    1. I must say I love some of your ‘conversations’ being in Italian!! Since one knows the ‘topic’ if just a semblance of the language is available [as me with Italian – occasional trips to ‘Dante Alighieri’ when possible!!!] one has such fun learning just a few more words each time 🙂 !


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