Fusilli with Cauliflower, Tomato Sauce & Olives


The first thing you might notice about my dish is…those noodles aren’t fusilli noodles! I wanted to use up an open package of pasta, so I diverted from the recipe as it is written. I also think I used less pasta than the recipe called for, although I didn’t measure. I had half a large bag of pasta (500g) and while I cooked all of it, I ended up using only about 1/2 of that. The recipe called for 3/4 lb fusilli. If I make this again I would only use 1/2 pound pasta and I think I would stick to fusilli or something kind of similar like penne or corkscrews. These big circles weren’t the best fit, shape-wise.

The sauce itself was yummy. The cauliflower and olives go together nicely and the feta and parsley play up the Mediterranean flavors. I will use more cauliflower next time — it got a little lost among all the noodles. And maybe fewer red pepper flakes — it was just this side of too spicy. That probably had to do with my heavy hand more than the recipe, though. All in all, this was an easy and tasty recipe that came together quickly.

Fusilli with Cauliflower, Tomato Sauce, and Olives

–from The Very Best of  Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman

Serves 4

  • 1/2 medium heal cauliflower, broken into florets (I would use a whole head next time)
  • salt
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • ground black pepper
  • 12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
  • 3/4 pound fusilli (I would use 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta, ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese (I used feta)
  • freshly chopped parsley, to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the cauliflower. Boil the cauliflower for 5 – 8 minutes, or until tender, and transfer to the ice water. Drain and blot dry. Quarter the cauliflower florets and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomatoes (with juice), sugar, thyme, black pepper and salt, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until cooked down and fragrant, 15 – 20 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower and olives and heat through for 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  3. Return the water to a rolling boil. Add the fusilli and cook al dente, until the pasta is firm to the bite, following the timing direction on the package but checking 1 – 2 minutes before the suggested cooking time. Scoop out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and add to the tomato and cauliflower mixture. Drain the pasta and toss with the cauliflower-tomato mixture and, if desired, another 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the cheese and parsley over the top and serve at once.


  • I added a little red wine to my tomato sauce, simply because I had it. Nobody was sad about that. 🙂
  • This was not very saucy. I actually prefer less sauce, in general, but even to me this seemed a bit spare. I think it was mostly the pasta to sauce ratio, but as I mentioned I would totally add more cauliflower, which would even more disrupt the sauciness factor. So if I do this again, I think I might add maybe half a can of additional tomatoes.
  • I stirred the cheese into the pasta and reserve just a bit to sprinkle on top. I also added freshly chopped parsley, some of which I stirred in and some of which was sprinkled over top. I think the parsley is a MUST to really play up the Mediterranean aspects of the dish.

This year I am joining The Frugal Girl in trying one new recipe each week. You can check them all out here.



11 thoughts on “Fusilli with Cauliflower, Tomato Sauce & Olives

  1. This recipe looks delicious! I appreciate you commenting that it is “less saucy”, i prefer pasta that way as well. Plus, I am always looking for ways to use cauliflower!

    1. Yay, team “less sauce”! 🙂 Cauliflower is weird, in that I really like it but find myself doing the same one or two things with it…

    1. Yes, definitely both of those. And the sauce would be good with non-wheat starches, too. Like I could see this being really great with white beans or spelt, actually.

    1. For the most part, I feel like pasta is pretty interchangeable (at least, any long pasta will work in recipes that call for spaghetti, any short pasta will work in recipes that call for penne, etc), but this large tube/circle shape was actually kind of hard to match up with a sauce!

  2. It does look and sound delicious! I am not particularly fond of cauliflower, but my daughter likes it and this sounds like something we might both enjoy (minus the olives I’m afraid; neither one of us likes olives).

    1. I don’t think anyone is middle-of-the-road on olives. 🙂 I love them! But a few of my friends really do not. I think it would be lovely without them and the cauliflower kind of takes on the other flavors, so it’s not really predominant.

Comments are closed.