There are hundreds, no thousands of Sicilian recipes for cauliflower – one of the most prolific veggies on the island, as its long growing season lasts at least 5 months. But you might be confused, if after visiting you try to find a recipe for the delicious dish you enjoyed in a restaurant. What Sicilians call ‘broccolo’ is cauliflower for the rest of Italy and the world! Cauliflower, or ‘cavolfiore’ becomes ‘broccolo’ in Sicily. Depending on the kind, sometimes they’ call it ‘vrocculi’ or ‘rocculi’. What do they call broccoli then? Sparacello.
Just like the picture above, Sicilian cauliflower is green or red. And, its HUGE! Take a look at the photo below. Mike held a 5 euro note up to a head to get a good perspective on the size. Its HUGE!
No matter what you call it – cauliflower is like a little sponge to pick up the flavors of its accompanying ingredients. This cauliflower casserole is a riff on a dish we had for dinner in Erice, an unforgettable medieval hill town with ancient origins, close to the port city of Trapani on the island’s western coast. You can enjoy eating it as a stand-alone dinner, or a side for something meaty.
I want to show you just how high up in the clouds Erice lies. Above is photo from the road at the entrance to the town of Erice. See that “twisty turn-ey” thing in the foreground? That’s the road we took on the way up!
Sicilian Cauliflower Gratin
- About a 2 LB Head Cauliflower
- 2 Cups Chopped Red Onion
- 1 Tsp – 1 TB Red Pepper Flakes
- Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 4 TB Olive Oil, divided
- 3 Garlic Cloves, grated
- ½ to 1 Cup Oil Cured, Castelvetrano Sicilian Olives or Kalamata Olives, coarsely chopped.
- ¼ Cup Chopped Parsley
- About 3/4 Cup Freshly Grated Pecorino or Parmesan, divided
- ¼ Cup Chopped Pistachios
Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the Cauliflower up to florets – include the stem as well. Place in a bowl, cover and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and cook for an additional minute or until crisp tender. You will probably need to do this in two batches.
Add 2 TB olive oil to a sauté pan and cook the onion with the red pepper flakes, sprinkled with salt and pepper, over medium heat until soft about 7 – 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.
Add the cauliflower, onion and olives, parsley, remaining 2 TB of olive oil and half of the cheese to an oiled casserole dish, season with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and stir well. In a small bowl combine the remaining ¼ cup cheese with the chopped pistachios. Spread out on top of the casserole and place in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Yes! Sicily has rosé, too! Tasca Regaleali Rosé is one of my favorites to enjoy with this veggie casserole. Made with 100% Nerello Mascalese, a dark-skinned grape that grows most commonly on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, it’s a delicious light-bodied red wine with a gorgeous deep red color, you can see this reflected in the beautiful deep pink color of this rosé. The name of the wine comes from the thousands of rose bushes on the Regaleali estate. You’ll enjoy cherries and berries and strawberries in the aroma, zingy acidity and citrus in its flavor.