Curried cauliflower with penne, peas, and chickpeas

December 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm (AMA, Beans, B_minus (2.5 stars), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Pasta, Starches)

This AMA recipe is a strange combination of a standard Indian curried cauliflower dish with peas and chickpeas, and a standard Italian cauliflower dish with parmesan, raisins, and pinenuts.  It also has tomato sauce.  I love curried cauliflower, but I’ve never been that excited about the sweet Italian cauliflower dish. (I’ve tried several versions, including one in Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian Kitchen and this Sicilian recipe from 101 cookbooks).  But I was curious to find out how I would like the combination of the two recipes.


  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or water
  • 1/4 cup fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs (about 1/2 slice of bread)
  • 3 Tbs. pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. dried hot pepper flakes
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 3/4 pound penne or other stubby pasta
  • 1 can (10 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 cup cooked chickpea


  1. Soak the currants in the wine until plump, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a small dry skillet, toast the bread crumbs and pine nuts over medium heat until golden and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes, and immediately spoon into a small bowl.  Let cool, then toss with the cheese and set aside.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil and cook the cauliflower, stirring over medium-high heat until lightly colored, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and curry and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add the currants and soaking liquid, tomato sauce, vegetable broth, and pepper flakes.  Simmer, uncovered, until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.  Add the peas and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain well.
  5. Toss the pasta with the sauce, chickpeas, and half of the bread crumb mixture.  Sprinkle the rest of the bread crumb mixture over the plates after serving.

My notes:

Apparently I’ve made this recipe before, because there’s a post-it in the cookbook that says:  “Pretty good.  Satisfying.  Right amount of spice.  Couldn’t taste pine nuts.  I didn’t like the currants, but Derek said it needed more.  Use less olive oil and more cheese and breadcrumbs.

I used an extra Tablespoon of pine nuts and used panko rather than bread crumbs, but otherwise followed the recipe.  The recipe seems to call for too much  pasta, but the pasta to sauce ratio was actually perfect.  I liked this recipe more than I was expecting.  However, it didn’t really taste Indian at all.  One teaspoon of curry powder barely made a dent.  The tomato sauce and sweet currants dominated, and the peas and chickpeas added texture.  Unfortunately I used a not very good whole wheat penne, and it seemed to be both overcooked and undercooked at the same time.  That certainly detracted from the dish.  Also the German tomato sauce I used was quite bland.  If I make this again I’ll use a more seasoned tomato sauce–maybe make a pasta sauce out of crushed tomatoes and garlic and herbs.  Derek said it was pretty good, but not great.   He was disappointed that it didn’t taste more like curry.  And he wouldn’t eat any of the leftovers.  Right after I made the dish it had a nice contrast between the sweetness of the currants and peas and the savoriness of the other ingredients.    But that contrast disappeared after the dish sat in the fridge for two days. It seemed like all the sugar leached out of the currants and turned the dish into an overly sweet, insipid dish.

I don’t really understand why the recipe says to add vegetable broth and then reduce the sauce.  Is it just to cook the cauliflower?  Because I could have done that with a few extra minutes in the skillet.  Maybe it’s to have the cauliflower absorb the tomato flavor.

I might try making this recipe again with more curry powder, better pasta, whole wheat bread crumbs, and a more flavorful tomato sauce.  It will probably always taste a bit like a smorgasbord though

Rating: B

Derek: B-

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