Farfalle with Cauliflower, Saffron and Parmesan Cheese

Here is another often requested recipe at my house. Pasta mixed with tender cauliflower florets, dried blueberries, crunchy sunflower seeds and cheese!Pasta with cauliflower, dried blueberries, parmesan cheese on a blue plate

I have been making this pasta dish for the last 12 years or so. I found this recipe in one of the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, called “Pasta” and I believe it was one of the first cookbooks I ever got for myself. That’s mostly where I learned how to cook from. I think I own about 15 cookbooks just from Williams-Sonoma. And no, this is not a paid post! For a very long time this pasta dish was on my weekly dinner rotation as my husband was obsessed with it. I still cook it often since it’s easy to make and it takes about 30 minutes to have it ready.

saffron threads, dried blueberries, sunflower seeds, cauliflower

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world. It comes from a plant called Crocus sativus, known for its purple flowers and red stigmas. Each flower has 3 stigmas of saffron that need to be hand picked at a very specific time and dried to remove the moisture. Since there are only 3 stigmas of saffron in each flower, to obtain 1 kilo (or almost 2 lbs) of saffron, about 80 000 flowers are needed. When the drying process is done, 1 kilo is reduced to about 200 grams. That’s why this spice is so expensive. It has a very distinctive aroma and flavor that is hard to describe. Its wonderful orange hue makes any dish more appealing.  It’s commonly used in many cuisines, including Indian, Italian, and Spanish.

saffron threads in a mortar

It is good to grind the saffron threads in a mortar and soak them in hot water for 15 minutes before adding the orange colored water into a dish.

A couple of times I used turmeric instead of saffron and the dish was still very good. Slightly different flavor but we all enjoyed it.

farfalle pasta with cauliflower, dried blueberries, sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese

Start preparing this dish by bringing a large pot of water to boil. Meantime, separate the cauliflower into smaller florets.  You want them to be a bite size. Put them into the pot and add salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly soft but still undercooked. Dice 1 onion and add it onto a hot skillet with some olive oil. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked cauliflower florets into a skillet. Reserve the cooking water to cook the pasta in it. Place about 1/4 cup of the hot water into a small bowl and add a pinch of ground saffron threads. Let them soak for about 10-15 minutes. Add more water to the pot if needed, bring to a boil and add pasta.

While pasta is cooking, add 1/4 cup of white wine into the skillet along with a dash of cayenne pepper. Cook until the wine evaporates, about 4 minutes. Add saffron water and stir gently making sure everything gets incorporated. Then add sunflower seeds, soaked dried blueberries, salt and pepper. Cook for few more minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add into a skillet. While draining the pasta reserve about 1/2 cup of the water and add into a skillet to make some sauce. Stir well. Add about 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese  and finely chopped dill into the skillet. Stir well. Serve with more cheese.A bite of cauliflower pasta on a forkServes: 4      Prep time: 15 minutes          Ready in: 30 minutes


  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lb farfalle or fusilli (or other short pasta)
  • generous pinch of saffron threads, ground
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries, soaked in a warm water
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


  1.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and cauliflower florets. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain but keep the water. Return the water into a pot and bring it back to boil. Add pasta and some salt.
  2. Grind a pinch of saffron in a mortar. Put about 1/4 cup of hot water into a bowl (either from cooking the cauliflower or tap water) and add the ground saffron. Let it soak 10-15 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add chopped onion and cook for about 4 minutes until it softens. Add the cooked cauliflower, pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir well. Pour the white wine and let it evaporate.
  4. Add the soaked saffron and the orange water into a skillet. Stir well, then add drained blueberries and sunflower seeds.
  5. Drain pasta. Reserve about 1/2 cup of water. Add pasta into a skillet. If it seems dry, add the reserved water. Stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add chopped dill, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and stir. Adjust seasonings.
  7. Serve with some more cheese.



One comment

  1. Pingback: Chicken Curry with Pineapple | It's Cooking with Magda

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