Cauliflower Patties, Italian Style



Last week’s recipe prompted cauliflower memories from senior senior (93!) Lee Sirabella of Brewer. He wrote, “My mother and father came from an island but on the other side of the Atlantic, off Naples, Italy, the Isles of Ischia. My mother was a great cook. The trouble is I ate what she prepared but never went to the extent of finding out how she made meals; her recipes are forever lost.”

One of those lost recipes was for cauliflower patties. Lee remembers patties of mashed cauliflower cooked in an iron frying pan, which he recalls as fragrant. “Mom did not make them often but I loved eating them!”

I dug around on the good old Internet searching with the phrase, “cauliflower patties Italian style.” Up popped the following recipe. I sent the description to Lee, and he said it sounded right. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, or, in this case, the patties.

I made them for supper, and we enjoyed them very much. My niece, who is visiting for a while, announced that the smell of them cooking was wonderful as it wafted upstairs to her room, and I thought of Lee and the fragrances he remembered.

The recipe calls for a whole head of cauliflower, I used half a head instead, and found it made a lot; and they are filling. If you choose vegetables as a main course, this will definitely work. Shallots, garlic, and cheese provide the flavor, and they combine to form a charming, crusty exterior. I wanted a texture, not a puree, so I broke up the cooked cauliflower with a three-tined fork, but a masher used gently would work, too.

Cauliflower Patties

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

Olive or vegetable oil

3 to 4 shallots, minced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 eggs, beaten

¼ cup flour

½ to ¾ cups Parmesan cheese, grated

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

¼ cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley to taste

Steam the cauliflower until it is tender, and break it up into coarse crumbles. Sauté the minced shallot and garlic in a little oil until it becomes fragrant, then stir it into the cauliflower. Add the eggs and the flour and mix; then stir in the cheeses. The mixture will be thick and stiff. Add the milk gradually until the mixture is soft enough to drop into patties but will not ooze liquid. Add the parsley if desired and the salt and pepper. Fry on a hot pan, in more oil, cooking each side until golden.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.