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  • Writer's pictureIsabella Akshay

Cavoli Affogati (Sicilian "Drowned" Cauliflowers)

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

This stew evokes memories of late September nights and the sea. A perfect celebration of this end of summer and a welcome to the new season.

A walk through the streets of my coastal town in Sicily at dinner time is an assault on the senses; the smell of jasmines everywhere, the pink and white of bougainvilleas, the aroma of deliciously prepared foods being fried in olive oil, the sound of the sea.

Cauliflowers also remind me of my grandmother. She could magically turn the simplest ingredient into something incredibly tasty. Impossible to replicate the flavours, even if you followed her recipe to the letter. And she loved cauliflowers.

This is my humble attempt at creating a dish with her in mind. I’m pretty sure she would have liked it. Inspired from the Sicilian culinary tradition, this simple recipe for ‘cavoli affogati’, meaning “drowned cauliflowers” is named after the process of “drowning” cauliflower florets in tomato sauce and vinegar.

Ingredients (for 2 as a main or 4 as a side)

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 garlic cloves, bashed, peeled and chopped

  • 2 tins (800g) San Marzano tomatoes, both pulp and juice (I used these Mutti San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes)

  • 6 tbsp mild white vinegar (I used this Golden Raspberry & Apache Chilli Vinegar by Womersley)

  • 1 large pinch chilli flakes (adjust to your taste)

  • A small bunch fresh chopped parsley to garnish

  • Salt to taste


Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pan or casserole, and place over a medium-high heat.

Once it starts to sizzle, add the cauliflower florets, the garlic and season with salt. Cook with a lid on, occasionally turning the florets so they sear on all sides.

After about 5 minutes, add the tinned tomatoes, vinegar and chilli flakes. The tomatoes can be quite watery so leave to cook with on medium heat with the lid off for around 12-15 minutes, or until the sauce has darkened, thickened and the florets are tender but still a little crunchy – this might vary depending on the size of the florets. Serve with chopped fresh parsley and some toasted slices of bread!

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