Pickled Cauliflower with Chili Bread Crumbs (Cavolfiore Piccante)

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8

Author Domenica Marchetti loved her mother’s giardiniera, the beloved pickled vegetables of Italy, which she made really vinegary, with chunks of cauliflower, carrots, onions and red bell peppers. This is Marchetti’s quick version, topped with crunchy and spicy bread crumbs.


  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 head cauliflower, purple if available, cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, basil or
      mint, or a mixture
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small fresh hot chili, minced, or a generous pinch of red
      pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs


In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, 1/2 tsp. of the salt and the garlic. Set aside.

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan and fill the pan with water up to but not touching the bottom of the basket. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower to the basket, cover and steam until just tender, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and sprinkle with the herbs. Pour the vinegar mixture over and toss to coat thoroughly. Let marinate for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes so that the vinegar is evenly absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chili and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat with the oil. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and sauté until the crumbs are crisped and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the cauliflower to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).

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