“The Country Cooking of Italy” Recipe: Rigatoni with Cauliflower

I love food and I love Italy.  So I was very excited to crack open a review copy of one of the most beautiful cookbooks I’ve ever seen, The Country Cooking of Italy. Written by Coleman Andrews, the co-founder of Saveur (one of my personal favorite magazines) and editorial director of The Daily Meal.com, I had a feeling it would be good and I was not disappointed. This will be my cookbook gift of choice this year.

I particularly love this book because Italian cooks are the original locavores, utilizing the fresh produce and locally raised animal products that are always plentiful throughout Italy (The Roving Locavore points out that in 2009 Italy’s Parliament even voted unanimously to recommend that UNESCO list the Mediterranean diet as endangered.) Colman explores every region, from Piedmont to Puglia and The Country Cooking of Italy highlights the abundant flavors of the land and an ingredient-focused culture deeply rooted in rural traditions. This is all set against the backdrop of Andrews’ compelling voice.

Rigatoni with Cauliflower

This is a classic Sicilian recipe from The Country Cooking of Italy. Andrews notes that it can be made with fresh tomatoes, but more than one Sicilian friend has told him that he or she prefers the canned ones.

Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup toasted bread crumbs
  • 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets and finely chopped
  • 6 to 8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncini
  •  salt and pepper
  • 5 whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. rigatoni or penne rigate

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs, stir well, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are well toasted, about 15 minutes. Set them aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the same frying pan over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the anchovies, garlic, and peperoncini and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup water, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes more.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the cauliflower mixture, stir well, and continue to cook, uncovered, until the tomato liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot. Stir in the cauliflower mixture and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Pass the bread crumbs at the table.
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