Rigatoni Salad with Cauliflower and Saffron
If you’d like, replace the rigatoni with another pasta that has nooks and crannies to capture the juices, such as fusilli, rotelle or radiatore. Use saffron threads rather than powdered saffron for the best flavor.
For the saffron dressing:
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. saffron threads
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 head white or green cauliflower, separated into bite-size
- 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
- 10 oz. rigatoni pasta
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- 2 Tbs. capers, rinsed
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, saffron, cumin, cayenne and salt. Add the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Set aside.
Put the cauliflower in a steamer basket, sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp. salt and place over boiling water in a saucepan (the water should not touch the bottom of the basket). Cover and steam until just tender, about 8 minutes. Remove the basket from the pan and run cold water over the cauliflower to stop the cooking. Let drain.
Bring a pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large, deep bowl. Toss the pasta with the olive oil.
Add the cooled cauliflower and the dressing to the pasta and turn to coat well. Set aside a few of the parsley leaves for garnish and add the remaining parsley leaves and the thyme to the pasta, turning to distribute evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
Before serving, let the salad return to room temperature, then garnish with the remaining parsley leaves and the capers. Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Salad of the Day, by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2012).