Seasonal fall vegetable dishes in the Italian food culture are always favorites in my famiglia as they represent a warm and hearty accompaniment to all varieties of roasted meats, poultry and fish that we prepare during this season of cooler weather, holiday preparations and multiple gatherings with famiglia and friends.
My daughter’s Nonna Angela Favale made these from her famiglia’s recipe where she grew up (Avellino) in the southern region of Italia, near the city of Naples. I fell in love with these delicious cauliflower patties and have since prepared them with some personal changes that I prefer to use today.
This comfort-food side dish uses cauliflower as the star ingredient and are more of a pattie (think pancake-like, thick not thin) than a polpette (meatball) as the Italians named them. My famiglia and friends love these cauliflower patties, even die-hard cauliflower haters will eat these by the handful.
I often make them and serve them for snacks (Isabella and Carina eat them as an after-school snack) and holiday gatherings as they easily compliment any main dish you are planning to serve.
Note: The mixture for these patties is a bit of trial and error as it needs to resemble a very thick pancake batter without being too dry or worse, too thin and runny.
Try making a test pattie and see how it holds up, add flour or milk to solve any texture issues and remember to cook them on medium-low heat and resist the urge to flip too soon as they need to cook through and become a lovely golden brown.
polpette di cavolfiore
1 large head of cauliflower (washed, trimmed into bite size pieces)
3-4 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 small garlic cloves (peeled and finely chopped)
3-4 large organic eggs
fresh italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup shredded low moisture mozzarella
1/4- 1/2 cup (or more if needed) unbleached baking flour
1/4-1/2 cup (or more if needed) whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
light olive oil (for cooking)
Place a large stockpot filled with water to boil on the stove top. Once it comes to a full boil, add the prepared cauliflower and cook until tender, but not too mushy. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside to cool.
Saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil until soft and fragrant; do not brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Break the cooked cauliflower pieces down into very small pieces using your hands or a knife. The cauliflower needs to be solid enough to taste and create texture, but not so large as to not allow the patties to cook properly.
Add the eggs, cooked shallots and garlic to the bowl of cauliflower and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix this well and add some flour and milk to begin creating a batter-like consistency (start with 1/4 cup of each and add more as needed; adjust to get the desired consistency.)
Add the grated cheese, shredded mozzarella and chopped fresh parsley to the mix and blend well until combined. Again, test the thickness here and adjust accordingly adding flour and milk until you are satisfied.
Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat and add drizzle of the light olive oil and test the mixture by spooning a small pattie into the skillet and watch how it cooks and holds its shape.
Use your spatula to press and form the pattie in the skillet as it cooks to make sure it maintains shape and cooks through.
Adjust your heat and resist the urge to flip too soon, allow the pattie to cook until light golden brown (about 3-4 minutes each side depending on your stove) before you flip them.
Note: The key here is to keep the pattie shape to a medium to small size which makes it easier to flip with your spatula when cooked (this keeps the patties intact and they will cook more evenly.)
Continue forming and cooking the patties, adding more light olive oil as you go. Remove the cooked patties to a large flat platter to cool (do not overlap them until cooled.) Taste the first patties and adjust your salt and pepper seasoning for the remaining batter, if needed.
I love to serve these after letting them cool as they are much more flavorful at room temperature.
These are the ideal hostess side dish (plan to make these during the upcoming holidays) that you can make ahead.
Store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator and simply deliver them to your host and let them come back to room temperature before serving.
Note: Photography provided by Carina Favale
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a “Wildcard Contest Winner” and “Community Pick” recipe chosen by the FOOD52 community. Grazie tante!