Miskiglio cavatelli with cauliflower and tomato sauce

july 4th 2014

I hope not to be boring proposing similar recipes one after the other. To say the truth, there is a reason why I do it: within a year, I changed a lot the way I eat. I stopped eating lots of things, I added some others, eventually also from other cultures. But what I like a lot is transforming recipes that are dear to me because they belong to my past or to the cultural heritage of my country. So I committed myself to creating recipes that are going to belong to the “new tradition”. In this way I hope to give a suggestion of how we can begin to change our traditional recipes in order to make them more suited to our modern lifestyle. I mean: reducing the use of everything that is refined (sugar and cereals), replacing animal fats with vegetable ones, reducing animal protein and re-introducing the use of legumes in our kitchen.
And the interesting thing for me was discovering that, as in other fields (see architecture), moving forward in a sustainable way means looking back to the past. One thing I often say to my students is that “the creative process is a process of going ahead and going back, several times”. In my opinion this is true also regarding to cooking. This recipe is an example and because of this I am happy to talk about it, here and now.
This “miskiglio cavatelli” with cauliflower and tomato sauce are a recipe belonging to the Mediterranean diet of 50 years ago, which combines grains, legumes and vegetables, and does not involve the use of eggs nor dairy.
The “miskiglio” – or “mix” – is nothing more than a mixed flour of cereals and legumes, namely barley, broad beans and chickpeas. This “mix” in the past was combined with the regular flour to “stretch” it a bit. In fact at the time cereals were scarce and legumes abounded. This is by the way an interesting combination because it answered to a practical problem: the lack of food in general, and in particular the lack of meat, which once was not on our tables every day, as it does today, not even once a week! In Gioia del Colle (Bari), where my mother was born, eventually they ate fish, and even this very rarely. Mixing cereals and legumes means to introduce into our body all the essential amino acids that we need to manufacture our proteins. In this way, animal proteins are no longer strictly necessary. These include also cheese that, such as meat, was in short supply. My grandparents were not used to spread cheese on their pasta every day as we might think. Instead of parmesan cheese they used old bread crumbs, toasted in a pan with a little oil and a pinch of salt. This was the “cheese of the poor”, as my mom calls it.
I like to talk about this recipe because it is something that my mother was used to eat when she was little. It was a festive dish and it was eaten occasionally, as it should be for us today. I cooked it certainly for a special occasion. There is a little kiosk, the Singelding, along the Hemraadsingel and very close to our house that, in the summer, organizes weekly “in Plaats van friet”, an activity for the neighborhood. Every friday evening one volunteer (not necessarily a professional) cooks a meal for its neighbors. In this way, people of the district have the opportunity to meet and socialize outside in the open air. They eat together and they also learn something that belongs to a culture probably different from their own. Our neighborhood is in fact definitely multicultural. Next to Dutch people there are also many Turkish, Moroccan, Cape Verdeans and so on.
On july 4th I volunteered to cook! I have proposed a space-time journey by bringing my neighbors in the puglia region of 50 years ago. It had great success since I fed nearly 90 people (instead of 50, as planned) !! I made cavatelli for two weeks, and I put them in the freezer to preserve them. As usual, I choose the most difficult path, but… I had a great satisfaction.

Below is the recipe for approximately 4 people, my quantities were slightly more abundant, of course :-). 

Ingredients for the cavatelli:
400 g hard wheat flour
100 g miskiglio *
250 g water

Ingredients for the sauce:
750 ml of tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
1 small cauliflower
wholewheat bread (also old, I used sourdough)
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley (optional)
cold pressed olive oil as needed
salt as needed

* I found it in a shop in Spezzano di Fiorano (Modena) that sells specialties from the Basilicata and Puglia regions
Procedure to make fresh pasta (see previous post with explanatory photos):
.warm up the water (it should be warm but not hot), pour the flour on the wooden plank and create a “fountain” or central hole
.Add water gradually and knead vigorously until the dough is firm and smooth
.remove a part of the dough and place the remaining dough in a plate, cover it in order to avoid it from drying out
.start to roll out the dough into a roll thickness of about 2.5-3 cm (if the dough is a bit dry help yourself by making your hands wet with a little water) and cut the roll further into smaller pieces
.start to make elongated 1cm-thick stripes out of it by moving the hands from the center towards the outside (you may need to make your hands a little wet again)
.subsequently use plenty of flour and make sure the flour covers the entire surface by rolling them gently, group the stripes and start to cut them in small cubes of 1×1 cm
.hollow every cube !
.place them on a tray (or more than one!) making sure they do not overlap and are sufficiently covered with flour (to avoid sticking to each other)
.let it rest (maximum from morning to evening) or freeze them by placing the tray in the freezer for at least an hour before collecting them together into a plastic bag


Procedure for the tomato sauce:
.click brown the garlic with a little olive oil (2 table spoon should be fine)
.add the tomato puree and bay leaf
.add salt as desired, make up to a boil and let simmer for at least 40-45 minutes


Preparation for cooking:
.clean the cauliflower and divide it into pieces
.grate the dry bread or chop it with a mixer (Thermomix in my case)
.warm up a non-stick pan, add the bread crumbs, add a little olive oil and a pinch of salt
.click toast being careful not to burn (add the chopped parsley, if desired) and set aside


Procedure for cooking:
.make up to boiling abundant salted water
.cook the cauliflower for about 10 minutes, pull it out of the water and set it aside
.into the same water pour the fresh cavatelli pasta and cook for about 4 minutes, or in any case until they come to the surface (in case you conserved them in the freezer, throuw them as frozen into the water for 10 minutes instead of 4)
.drain and mix the cavatelli with the cauliflower and the tomato sauce
.serve and flavor them with the toasted bread crumbs


If I had the chance I would have definitely used a “half-whole” hard wheat flour, as we call it in Italy. “Half-whole” means that this flower is deprived of the bran but still has the germ, which contains still vitamines and minerals. I think that 50 years ago they probably used this type of flower, but I can’t find it here in Rotterdam. If I am in Italy I buy it in a specialized shop. In this case I used a flour from Altamura, a courtesy of Burro e Salvia, the S2, medium refined.

time 1 hour for preparing the fresh pasta, 30 minutes for cooking
difficulty high

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