Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron

Couscous with veal, cauliflower and peppers
Couscous with veal, cauliflower, red peppers and saffron

Sicily has been on my mind.

I recalled a remarkable day on the northern coast where I learned of 2 new ingredients for my Italian-American cooking, couscous and saffron.

We spent a delightful day in San Vito lo Capo lounging on the soft pink beach, swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea with Tunisia on the horizon and exploring the annual couscous festival in the small town that hugs the coast.

As the sun began to set we headed back to our hotel in the hills overlooking Palermo. We stopped in a tavola calda in Monreale for a quick meal.

I asked the owner Filippo if he could grill swordfish for me simply seasoned with olive oil, oregano and lemon. It was one of his favorites and he was happy to make it for me.

We talked as he brushed the fresh swordfish steak with oregano-infused olive oil, laid it on the hot iron grate over the open fire and sprinkled it with sea salt. It was on the plate in a jiffy with wedges of lemon. Simply delicious.

On the way out we thanked Filippo for the wonderful meal. He went to the counter and came back with “Zafferano: Giallo il Colore della Felicita” (Yellow: The Color of Happiness), a booklet with dozens of Sicilian recipes made with saffron. He autographed it as a gift for me.

This is one of those recipes and the dish includes saffron and couscous, 2 ingredients that I added to my Italian-American pantry after that wonderful day in Sicily. It can be on your table in about 45 minutes.

The saffron bathes everything in a golden hue. The crusted veal is tender and moist, the vegetables soft and sweet and the nutty couscous absorbs the flavors of it all. Another delicious Italian dish influenced by North African cooking.

Buon appetito!

Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Veal with cauliflower, red bell pepper and saffron served over couscous.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound veal, cubed
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cauliflower
  • 2 tomatoes cut into 2 inch pieces or 12 small cherry or pear tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 carrot, cut in ½ inch slices
  • 1 red pepper, cored and seeded, cut 2-inch strips and then in 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • pinch of saffron (the dish is almost as good without saffron)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a enamel or heavy-bottomed pot put 1 tablespoon of olive oil and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the veal and brown all over.
  3. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste and cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
  4. Pour the white wine, scrape the bottom of the pot and cook until the wine is evaporated.
  5. Continue cooking until the vegetables are knife tender, about 20 minutes. Add some vegetable broth or water if the pot is too dry.
  6. Add the saffron and gently mix all the ingredients well. Reduce the heat to low to keep the stew warm.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the couscous in a bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  8. Put the vegetable broth in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  9. Pour in the couscous, stirring gently.
  10. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the couscous rest for 2 minutes.
  11. Add the remaining butter, stir and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring the couscous with a fork.
  12. Remove from heat, cover the pan and let cool for about 8 minutes.
  13. Place the couscous on a platter and top with the veal stew.
  14. Serve immediately.


Veal and Spring Peas from Naples

A Neapolitan classic, veal with spring peas
A Neapolitan classic, veal with spring peas

We trained to Naples from Rome and settled in to our apartment in the Spanish Quarter high above Via Chiaia and Via Toledo, Naples major shopping streets.

We have a half floor of an old palazzo and our landlady Filomene lives right next door. She gave us a tour of the apartment and the well-appointed kitchen. I have to light the stove with one of those sparking tools.

Filomene recommended an osteria around the corner for our first midday meal, an informal family run place. We were hungry and we went to eat before we even unpacked.

The owner welcomed us as he opened the door with his baby in his arms. We felt like we were eating in their dining room. The food was superb, a warm welcome to Napoli.

I had fiori di zucca as my appetizer, zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, dipped in a light batter and fried. Next spaghetti a ragu, a flavorful dark red tomato sauce. Beef braciola, a beef roll stuffed with garlic, pecorino and parsley ended my meal.

I was out today to shop in the outdoor markets in the streets around our apartment. I couldn’t get vitello e piselli out of my mind, so that’s today’s recipe.

Tender cubes of veal with sweet spring peas in a garlic and oregano infused tomato sauce. This is one of my favorite comfort foods that my Mom made often.

Veal and peas is quick and easy if you use a good cut of veal. It can be on your table in about 30 minutes.

Buon appetito!

Veal and Spring Peas from Naples
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A classic veal and spring peas dish in an oregano and garlic infused tomato sauce from Naples.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound veal loin, cubed
  • 1 pound peas in the pod, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups tomato passato (sauce from Italy) or San Marzano tomatoes crushed well by hand
  1. Put a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil.
  3. When the oil is hot and starts to ripple add the veal and cook until browned all over.
  4. Add the garlic, oregano and peas and mix well.
  5. Cook until the garlic is translucent and the peas start to turn bright green.
  6. Add the tomato and stir well.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the veal and peas are tender, about 12 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately.


A Surprise Guest in My Roman Kitchen

Giulia, my Roman home cook guide
Giulia, my Roman home cook guide and the video crew devouring the last of the saltimbocca

Giulia, the petite and effervescent aunt of my Roman producer, stopped by the apartment as we were setting up for the video shoot.

She was doubtful that a guy from San Francisco could cook Roman dishes and she wanted to see for herself.

Giulia does most of the cooking when her extended family gathers. I was glad she was with us. I was sure she would teach me a thing or two.

She really liked my sautéed chicory and the spring vegetable stew. Now we were best kitchen buddies and I tried to absorb all she told me in Italian.

As we talked about what was next up for me to cook, I had an idea. Maybe Giulia would show me how she cooked these dishes. I’d be her assistant.

After a bit of hesitation, she agreed to go on camera, as long as she could freshen up a bit first.

What an unexpected gift to have a Roman share her family veal saltimbocca and spaghetti cacio e pepe recipes with me.

When we post the Roman episodes you can make these dishes your own too.

Buon appetito!