Mrs. Vallone’s Cauliflower Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This recipe comes from Mrs. Vallone, a friend of my parents. She called it Cauliflower Sauce, even though the cauliflower remains as florets when cooked. It is really spaghetti and cauliflower in tomato sauce.

Serves4 to 6



Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian


Type of Dishpasta sauce, sauces


  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 4 quarts boiling water
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1-pound can whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed plum tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 basil leaves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 pound spaghetti, broken into thirds


  1. Cook the cauliflower in boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the cauliflower, reserving the cooking water.

  2. In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until onion is soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook, covered, for about 6 minutes. Uncover the skillet, add the crushed tomatoes, remaining salt, and pepper, and continue to cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Add the cauliflower, basil, and cheese. Stir, then cover and keep warm.

  3. Bring the reserved cauliflower water to a boil, add the spaghetti, and cook until al dente, tender but not mushy. Drain the spaghetti well, then add it to the sauce, mixing well to distribute the ingredients. Serve immediately.

  4. Variation: Add ½ cup pitted and chopped oil-cured olives to the sauce.


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