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Delicious Cauliflower Leaves in Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe

Updated on December 23, 2014

Cauliflower Leaves in Italian Tomato Sauce

Cauliflower leaves in Italian tomato sauce
Cauliflower leaves in Italian tomato sauce | Source

Cauliflower Leaves in Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe

5 stars from 3 ratings of Cauliflower Leaves in Italian Tomato Sauce

How Italians Eat Green Vegetables

Until just recently I've specifically chosen a cauliflower which has fewer leaves than other cauliflowers at the markets, aiming for the big white flower part of the vegetable, (thinking the green leaves would be a waste of money).

This all changed recently when I saw a container of very small cauliflower heads nestling among their bright green leaves, lots of green leaves, at a local open vegetable stand in Tuscany where I live. I bought one with all its leaves attached and this time decided to make a vegetable dish with the leaves.

One of the favorite ways to eat green vegetables in our Italian household, as in other Italian homes is to make them 'in umido', (which means 'braised in tomato sauce'). Bitter greens such as black cabbage and chard are extremely palatable this way. So why not cauliflower leaves? I experimented whilst the leaves were still fresh and green; all their goodness and nutrition intact. And it was a success.

Here is my recipe for delicious cauliflower leaves in Italian tomato sauce made with extra virgin olive oil. (And also with the cauliflower florets). It is a delicious way to prepare this humble green!

Cauliflower with Briased Cauliflower Leaves, a Tasty Side Dish

Cauliflower with cauliflower leaves in an Italian tomato sauce, 'in umido'
Cauliflower with cauliflower leaves in an Italian tomato sauce, 'in umido' | Source

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 55 min
Yields: Serves four people
One whole cauliflower
One whole cauliflower | Source
Chop off the hard stem at the base
Chop off the hard stem at the base | Source
Chop up  washed leaves
Chop up washed leaves | Source
Mix the greens in with  the onions in oil
Mix the greens in with the onions in oil | Source
Mix in the tomato sauce  and braise.
Mix in the tomato sauce and braise. | Source


  • 1 whole cauliflower, with its leaves
  • 300 grams tomato sauce
  • 1/4 -1/2 onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli pepper (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch salt

Instructions how to Cook the Greens and Make them with Tomato Sauce

  1. Chop off the very hard core at the base of the cauliflower, and discard
  2. Separate the leaves from the cauliflower
  3. Wash them, drain
  4. Slice the leaves and steam them, (or boil in a pan in 1 litre salted water) till the stem has softened. If you like well cooked greens, then cook them well. If you like them on the crispy side, then cook them less.
  5. Boil and strain the cauliflower in salted water whilst you make the sauce.
  6. Drain the leaves HOLDING BACK A CUP OF VEG WATER and set aside while you make the tomato sauce
  7. For the tomato sauce: finely chop the onion.
  8. In a medium sized frying pan: add the extra virgin olive oil the onion the chilli and cook until the onion is transparent
  9. Add the cooked cauliflower leaves, stir and cook together for a few minutes
  10. Add the tomato sauce, mix together and cook on moderate heat for about 20 minutes. Add the vegetable water. Mix and stir. Keep covered.
  11. The greens in the sauce are cooked when the tomato sauce has condensed but not too thickly. (Usually when little bubbles appear in the sauce)
  12. Serve hot in a serving dish with or without the cauliflower

Braised Cauliflower Leaves in Tomato Sauce - In Umido

Braised cauliflower leaves - 'in umido'
Braised cauliflower leaves - 'in umido' | Source

Knife and Block for Vegetable Cookery


Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 100 grams
% Daily Value *
Fat 0 g
Saturated fat 0 g
Unsaturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 5 g2%
Sugar 2 g
Fiber 3 g12%
Protein 2 g4%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Serve with Pork Chops as a Main Meal

Pork chops
Pork chops | Source
True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure
True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure

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Served as a Meal or Side Dish

Braised cauliflower leaves in an Italian tomato sauce ('in umido') can be served as a whole vegetarian meal, made pretty and doubly delicious with it's white cauliflower florets. Drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil over the florets.

  • You could toast some thick slices of bread, put a slice at the bottom of each serving dish and serve the greens on top (the tomato sauce needs to be more liquid for this.)
  • You could also serve it as a side dish next grilled meats, (which don't have sauce) and baked potato, or french fries.
  • A poached or fried egg on the top with some hot crusty bread makes it a tasty supper dish.

NOTE: If you like hot and spicy, then add more chilli. It is very, very good hot.

  • If you are serving small children then go lightly with pepper, obviously. A sprinkling of cheese on the top makes it tastier to children and will encourage them to eat their greens.

Tips for Preparing in Advance

You can make this dish ahead of time (1 day even) and reheat.

If this is your plan, then keep another cup of greens juice to add to the braised vegetables for re-heating.

You can re-heat in the oven in a casserole dish with a lid so that it's out of the way but also a surprise when it is served - and looks great in a rustic dish. (See the ad).

It tastes good with hot bread.

Sausages are perfect with it too.

© 2012 Penelope Hart


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    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I know! It was such a fantastic discovery for me too. So glad you like this and thanks so much for such an expressive comment.


    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I don't believe you can actually use the cauliflower leaves, this is so unbelievable, I always throw away the leaves. You have opened my eyes here on cooking with the cauliflower leaves. If only I had known!!!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      You are most welcome and it's just great of you to come back tell us that it worked out so well. So appreciate your comment, thank you.

    • keepyouinstitches profile image

      Erica J 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I gave it a try last night and must say it came out fantastic! Thanks for posting.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It's very jtrader, thank you. Hope you'll try it out.

    • jtrader profile image

      jtrader 4 years ago

      That looks tasty.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Well, that is a compliment coming from you and I do appreciate it wilderness. Thanks so much.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      You're right, GoodLady - this is different. I've never tried cauliflower leaves, but will have to sample this dish. Undoubtedly another success, coming from you!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Appreciate and thank you! Hope your husband likes it! And that your friend who grows things likes it too. I'd never thought of eating them till I tried and can not understand why it hasn't taken off before now. Why chop off the leaves? And throw them away? it doesn't make any sense. They are delicious!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 4 years ago from UK

      Beautiful photos Penelope! Like most people who've commented, it's never occurred to me to use the leaves! My husband is veggie, so we'll try it out. I'll also mention it to one of my friends who is a commercial grower - I'll bet she's never tried it either!

      Pinned and shared.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Hope you really enjoy it! Wishing you a very Happy New Year Lisa and many thanks for your happy comment here.

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      This looks simply amazing. I love cauliflower, but the recipe is so enticing! I can't wait to try this. thank you so much for sharing this! ---Happy New Year!---Lisa

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Not sure if they are actually better for you than the flower but they are green and fresh they must be full of goodness.


    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I never thought about it either!!! Why was that? Seems bizarre now.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I never thought to eat the leaves of a cauliflower, but this sounds pretty tasty.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Wow, Penelope … what a comprehensive hub! I have not tried this yet but I will.

      I always use cauliflower leaves … they look so much better for you than the rest of the cauli :)


    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Om P. Next time you see a fresh cauliflower with lovely green leaves, I hope you'll feel like trying it out!

      BlossomSB. How do you make your cauliflower leaves? They'd be nice even steamed with some olive oil wouldn't they?

      Thank you so much for your comments, which are appreciated.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I often use cauliflower leaves as a green vegetable as it seems such a waste to just throw them into the compost, but this recipe looks great and I will be trying it soon.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

      Looks yummy! I've never cooked with cauliflower leaves before. I'll bookmark this and put it on my kitchen adventure to-do list!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thanks so much for your votes Cathy. Hope you thoroughly enjoy this interesting, modest vegetable dish.

      Claudia Tello. Weird how they don't sell the leaves. Wonder what they do with them, maybe they make animal food or something. I can't believe they'd throw them away? Thanks for sharing.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

      In Mexico cauliflower is sold without leaves and I didn´t even knew how they look and that they are edible! What a waste.... it is really ridiculous that producers should throw away such a big part of the vegetable that could be used. Same happens with beetroot leaves, and they are so beautiful!

      Anyway, I learned something new today with your hub :).

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 5 years ago from NJ

      This looks great, I never had cauliflower leaves before but will definitely try it.

      Voted up!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      chef-de-jour Your spincai con sultanas (uvetta) sounds like a Sicilian dish and I'll look it up - try it out. Thanks for suggesting it and for your comment too. Appreciated.

      Crystal Tatum. Many thanks for your votes and shares and I do hope you will enjoy this delicious dish! It is tasty, for sure.

      carol7777. So nice of you to comment and votes and I do appreciate it. Buon appetito when you make this cauliflower leaves dish.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      i will never throw away cauliflower leaves again. This looks really good and worthy of a vote UP and a share.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      Yum! I've never had cauliflower leaves - never occurred to me! This looks delicious, a dish I definitely want to try. Voted up and shared.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Interesting dish - green leaves from vegetables such as cauliflowers are often thrown away (or composted hopefully) but with your Italian knowhow you've transformed them. A clever and healthy alternative. This reminds me of a side dish I had some years ago - again Italian I think - spinaci con sultanas - well, cooked in olive oil and like your tomatoe based collies delicious!