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Healthy Recipes: Cauliflower Fra Diavolo

Devilishly Good Cauliflower

By Dana Jacobi 
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Bland. Boring. Smells bad. Cauliflower can be all three. Not, however, when prepared this Italian way. It calls for steaming the cauliflower so briefly that the sulfurous substances that make it smell during cooking (and make this cruciferous vegetable so good for us) do not have enough time to float through the house. The cauliflower is steamed until crisp-tender in broth together with browned onions, raisins, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. These seasonings add enough flavor and heat that no one can call Cauliflower Fra Diavolo bland or boring.

Pairing innocent-looking cauliflower with fiendishly hot chiles adds devilishly smart health benefits to this dish. As you may know, chile peppers contain capsaicin, a potent anti-inflammatory; some research shows their potential to reduce the risk of blood clots and cholesterol oxidation that can increase the risk of artery disease. Chiles are high in beta-carotene and their heat may boost metabolism, which may contribute to weight loss. There is also research underway investigating possible ways eating chile peppers may have benefits for people with diabetes. So let the pinch of peppers in this dish be as generous as you can enjoy.

Cauliflower Fra Diavolo

Cauliflower Fra Diavolo

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, diced in 3 /4-inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 cups cauliflower in 1-inch florets
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In deep medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cook until onions are browned, 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato paste, thyme, sugar and red pepper flakes. Pour in broth and stir to combine. Add cauliflower, raisins and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to coat them with tomato mixture. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Transfer cauliflower to serving bowl and let sit until warm or room temperature before serving. This dish keeps, covered in refrigerator, for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 6 antipasto, 4 side dish servings.

Per side dish serving: 150 calories, 4 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 
29 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 160 mg sodium

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.