I think orecchiette, translated as "little ears", is my favourite short dried pasta. I love the chewiness of it and I also love the often oily and slightly drier sauces that it is traditionally paired with. This is an excellent quick flavourful pasta dish that has that excellent combination of salty and oiliness.






Skill level

Average: 2.6 (29 votes)


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ small head cauliflower, cut into quite small florets, like a large caper 
  • 2 tbsp lilliput capers, 
  • ¼ cup pitted Ligurian olives
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
  • fine zest of 2 lemons
  • black pepper
  • 380 g orecchiette
  • 100 g grated parmesan

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Have a large pot of boiling salted water on, add the orecchiette to cook and then begin your sauce making. You want your pasta to arrive at being cooked at the same time your sauce is ready. This may require a little jiggling and turning up and down of the heat as you cook the pasta base.

Place a large shallow pan over a medium heat, warm slightly and then add the olive oil. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of oil as essentially this will become the sauce.

Add the cauliflower and capers, raise the heat and fry, stirring occasionally.

After about 3 minutes, add the olives, lower the heat and continue to stir. At this stage have a little seasoning moment, a nice amount of pepper and just a little salt.

Hopefully your pasta is now ready. Use a large slotted spoon and put the pasta it directly into the pan along with a few splashes of the cooking water.

Give it all a good toss to coat, sprinkle in the lemon zest, add the parsley and have another quick taste. Seasoning becomes so much more essential in these very simple dishes.

Serve immediately to your guests with the parmesan on the side.


• Orecchiette usually takes about 10-12 minutes to cook but if you need to substitute another dried pasta, perhaps spaghetti or linguine, just be aware of different cooking times.


Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson. Robert Gordon "Terra" bowls in colour saltbush both from Chef and the Cook.


For a taste of O Tama Carey’s cooking, visit her at Berta restaurant in Sydney. Like Berta on Facebook, and follow the restaurant on Twitter and Instagram.