Saturday, 19 July 2014

Orecchiette, Butter bean and Cauliflower salad

This Summer has been pretty delightful in the UK. There's been lots of warm temperatures and sunny days. Weather that puts you in mind for barbeques, of course! 

Barbeque food is fun, informal and easy. Marinaded cuts of meat, burgers, sausages, the main element of the food is simple to prepare. Barbeque cooking on the grill does require a certain element of skill, but the prep is a doddle. But what do you have with your bangers and burgers? One answer is a salad.

But barbeque salads have to be more than just leaf. Or it seems like an afterthought. A gesture of "I'm expected to do this, I'm not that fussed, so here you go". 

Being the middle of Summer, how about making something fitting for the season? Something with sunshine and perhaps Meditteranean flavours... To me, nothing says that more than the flavours of Italy. But I don't want to do something textbook, I want to take those typical Italian flavours and ingredients and give them a twist.

So here is a pasta salad with some very able co-stars, butter beans, rich in fibre and protein and cauliflower, a much neglected vitamin source. I decided to dress it with a very thick dressing, a paste to be precise. The paste used as a dressing here is my spin on pesto. 

I would recommend you use the hand-made Orecchiette pasta, because of its thickness. It has a slightly more chewy texture as a result, which contrasts well with the cooked cauliflower and butter beans. However, if you can't find any, then machine made Orecchiette or Conchigle pasta will do. 

Serves 4 as a main course or 6-8 as a side salad for a Barbeque


Juice of half a lemon (you might want to juice the other half and keep it to one side)
3 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp pine nuts
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 can (400g size) butter beans, drained and rinsed
Half a cauliflower, washed and cut into small florets
125g Orecchiette pasta (or conchigle)
8 halves of sundried tomato (one third to one half of a 340g jar)
1 small handful (about 3 tbsp) chopped flat leaf parsley
15-20 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt
Twist of ground black pepper
Olive oil to drizzle (optional)


Put a large saucepan full of water onto the heat and leave to come to the boil.

In a small pan, lightly toast the pine nuts until they are golden. Beware; they burn very quickly and become bitter and unpleasant. Leave to cool down.

Put the butter beans into a large mixing bowl.

Once boiling, put the Orecchiette pasta into the saucepan, and set a timer for 5 minutes.

When the timer goes, add the cauliflower florets. 

Reset the timer for 6-7 minutes, depending on whether you like the cauliflower al dente or just cooked.

Take all the remaining ingredients and blitz in a food processor to make a paste. 

When cooked, drain the Orecchiette pasta and cauliflower, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Rinse with cold water to arrest the cooking process. 

Put the cooled Orecchiette and cauliflower in the mixing bowl with the butter beans. Scrape out the paste, and fold into the beans, pasta and cauliflower thoroughly.

Taste the salad and check the consistency, and add either more lemon juice for more acidity, or the cooking water to loosen up the salad or seasoning as required.

Serve and enjoy!


  1. Hi Snigdha,

    We tried your recipe and enjoyed it very much. We couldn’t get the Orecchiette pasta over here in the Netherlands. So we used a different kind of pasta. We loved the taste of the paste of the cheese, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes and herbs. We think we can use such a paste in more dishes and will try to experiment a bit with it. Surely we will eat your dish again.

    Thanks for your recipe.
    Bye from us from the Netherlands.
    Paula & Peter

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