By Nancy Olah
My last post extolled the virtues of Eastern European flavors, but today I’m writing about a dish that represents my Sicilian heritage.
That’s right – I’m a certified mongrel! My father’s parents were immigrants from Hungary and my mom’s folks came from Sicily.
I often tell people that I’m half Italian, but I’m told by those who know that there is a world of difference between Italy and Sicily – so I guess I need to embrace my inner-Sicilian with pride!
I remember Cesarina Crimo, my Sicilian grandmother, adding cinnamon to her pasta sauce, and also recall that there were often some sweet and tangy elements that set her cooking apart from the standard fare served in most Italian restaurants.
Sicilian cuisine shares a common base with Italy, but also enjoys lively influences from Greece, Spain, France, and North Africa. So spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, nuts like pignoli and pistachio, and dried fruits like golden raisins and apricots have a special place in Sicilian dishes.
I created this pasta dish from whole cloth, with the goal of using up two Tofurky Italian sausage links, as well as four organic rainbow carrots, red mini peppers, and half a head of cauliflower. I’m trying to get better about not letting anything go to waste, and using my imagination to figure out how to deliciously meld all the elements together.
This dish is simple to put together in the slow cooker, especially if you are the proud owner of the Cuisinart Cook Central, which allows you to sauté in the slow cooker without dirtying up a skillet. All you have to do when you get home is boil the water for your pasta, add the Tofurky sausage to the sauce, toast your pignoli, and throw together a fresh salad.
This may not be “authentic” Sicilian cooking, but it sure reminded me of food my nonna used to make!
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small organic onion, chopped
- 1 organic orange carrot, diced
- 2 organic white carrots, diced
- 1 organic purple carrot, diced
- 2 small organic red peppers, diced
- 3 cloves garlic pressed
- ½ head organic cauliflower, cored and cut into small flowerettes
- ½ teaspoon organic cinnamon
- Sea salt and pepper
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- ⅓ cup golden raisins
- 1¼ cups boiling water
- 1 large organic tomato, diced (or an equivalent amount of diced cherry tomatoes) - about 1¼ cups tomato pulp
- ¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 1 6-ounce can can organic tomato paste
- 2 Tofurky Italian sausages, chopped
- 1 lb. organic farfalle
- ⅓ cup toasted pignoli (pine nuts)
- If using the Cusinart Cook Central, turn the unit to sauté and set the temperature for 275 degrees. (If not, heat a large skillet!)
- Heat the olive oil, and add the chopped onion. Sauté until translucent, and then add the diced carrots. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, and then add the diced peppers and garlic.
- Prep your cauliflower while the other veggies are cooking and add the flowerettes to the sauté.(If you are using a skillet, you can move the ingredients to the slow cooker at this point.) Add the cinnamon, along with some salt and pepper, and then the white wine.
- Meanwhile, put the golden raisins in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and pour the boiling water over them.
- Add the diced tomato pulp to the other veggies, along with the chopped parsley.
- Add the can of organic tomato paste, raisins, and boiling water, using some of the boiling water to clean out the can of tomato paste so that you get every last bit.
- Cover the slow cooker, set it to low for 5-6 hours.
- Put on a large pot of water to boil, and add salt when it is at a rolling boil. If the slow cooker has re-set to warm, turn it back to low and add the sausage pieces to the pasta sauce, stirring them in well. Cook the farfalle about 10 minutes or according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, toast the pignoli in a small skillet over low heat - don't let them burn. Taste the sauce and correct seasonings.
- Drain the pasta when it is al dente, and reserve a cup of the hot starching pasta water.
- Mix the drained pasta and sauce, and thin with a bit of the pasta water, if it is too thick. Serve in pasta bowls.
- Personally, I thought that this sauce was delicious without grated cheese, but if you aren't vegan and would like to add some freshly grated Parmesan or Romano, I won't tell!
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