Sicilian-style roasted cauliflower is an absolutely delish, vegan side dish that has a ton of spices to warm your belly. Roasted then drizzled with a caper-raisin vinaigrette, you’ve never had cauliflower that tastes like this.
For hundreds of years between the ninth and eleventh centuries, Sicily was under Arab rule, the legacy of which is apparent today in the frequent use of ingredients like honey, pistachios, golden raisins, and cinnamon. We nod to that heritage in the flavor profile here, making a vibrantly spiced roasted cauliflower with a briny sweet-and-sour vinaigrette that hits all parts of your palate.—Angie Rito & Scott Tacinelli
Sicilian-Style Roasted Cauliflower FAQs
How do I keep cauliflower from getting mushy when roasting it?
We know that it’s a drag to have to wash more dishes than you need to. But in this case, using two sheet pans to spread out that cauliflower—rather than cramming it all onto one—will give you the crispy, roasted cruciferous veg of your dreams.
How do I cut and core a cauliflower?
The objective here is to waste as little as possible and to make sure that it all cooks evenly. Start by pulling off the leaves and cutting the cauliflower into quarters, from the top of the crown through the stem. Then, just lay the quarters on the cutting board and remove the florets from the core with angled knife cuts.
Sicilian-Style Roasted Cauliflower
For the spice mix
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika (preferably Hungarian)
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the caper-raisin vinaigrette
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons brine packed capers rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped
For the cauliflower
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds (about 1 large head) cauliflower trimmed into 2-inch (5-cm) florets
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup caper-raisin vinaigrette
Make the spice mix
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line one or two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. You want enough space for the cauliflower to fit in a single layer.
- In a large bowl, combine the salt, turmeric, paprika, fennel, oregano, cinnamon, granulated garlic, and pepper.
Make the caper-raisin vinaigrette
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, honey, salt, raisins, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the raisins soften and plump, about 1 minute.
- Dump the mixture into a blender. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and blend on high until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped capers and stir to combine. Leftovers keep for up to 1 week.
Make the cauliflower
- Add the olive oil to the spice mix and whisk to combine. Add the cauliflower and toss thoroughly to coat the florets evenly.
- Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on the lined baking sheet(s) and roast until golden brown and fragrant and the thickest part of the floret can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and move to a serving platter. Gently toss the cauliflower with 1/3 cup vinaigrette. Taste and add more vinaigrette, if desired.
- Serve immediately. Leftovers keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Sicilian-style roasted cauliflower was one of those recipes that provided a lot of interesting flavours and satisfying texture, in not a lot of time. My cauliflower was extra-large, weighing in at 930 grams. My spice amounts still worked wonderfully but I did need a bit more vinaigrette. In fact, by day two, the vinaigrette was all gone. I suspect it was because of its creaminess and tang, and not by fault of the recipe measurements.
You know how you’re supposed to read a recipe at least 3 times before its execution? Don’t be tempted to just skim through during preparation. I slathered my cauliflower with the olive oil and then realized I was supposed to have made a paste. I then sprinkled my dry spice mix and it generously coated every floret nook and cranny. In the end, I didn’t feel that this affected the spice distribution or texture. I still had some darkened roasted bits and abounding flavour in each floret.
The colour, aroma, and flavour of this dish really did captivate all senses. I served mine as a starter on the first day. The leftovers warmed up nicely in the microwave on the second day despite the dressing. I served these with more dressing and black lentils as a vegetarian option. This recipe will be making a come-back for sure.
Roasted vegetables in my kitchen typically involve, well, just roasting. What was new to me about this recipe for Sicilian-style roasted cauliflower was adding another layer of flavors after the vegetable comes out of the oven. Cauliflower and warm spices are great together, and in this recipe, the pairing marries well with the sweet and tangy vinaigrette, which is just perfect for clinging to the surfaces of the tender cauliflower.
I was happy to have some of the caper-raisin vinaigrette leftover because as soon as I tasted it I thought it would be wonderful with pork. The following day, I cooked thick-cut pork chops that were simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and served them with the reheated vinaigrette on the side—deeelicious!
This recipe takes cauliflower to incredible heights with flavors that will transport you as sweet and savory mix and mingle to create your new favorite side dish. The spice mix adds so much personality, and the vinaigrette delivers a luscious coating that you will want to put on everything after this. It comes together quite quickly and uses pantry items you probably already have on hand, making it as accessible for weeknight cooking as it is worthy of a special occasion.
It is best served with simple accompaniments that really let the cauliflower sing, such as grilled meats or fish, and topping it on a bed of bitter greens contrasts the sweetness of the vinaigrette perfectly. My only critiques are as much as I found the blending of the raisins in the vinaigrette an ingenious flavor hack, I would enjoy having some plump and golden jewels reserved for visual and textural contrast. Along that same thread, some fresh green herbs for garnish, parsley, or mint perhaps, would round out the flavors well and add a beautiful visual flair. This is definitely a tester’s choice and one I can see myself making again and again.
Originally published December 23, 2021