Conchiglie with saffron, capers and raisins recipe | Yotam Ottolenghi | The new vegetarian

This vegetarian take on a Sicilian fishy spaghetti is ideal for using up what's in the store cupboard, yet with its magically synchronised sweet, salty and sour flavour, doesn't at all taste like a last-minute supper. It may not seem quite right to mix all these flavours, but it really works. Use fennel or red onion (which will need longer cooking) instead of the celery, if you prefer. I use conchiglie (shell-shaped pasta) because of the way it captures the sauce, offering a sweet or savoury surprise with every bite. This dish is excellent both as a hot main or, once cool, as a pasta salad to take to work or on a picnic. If you choose to finish it off with cheese, do so sparingly – it doesn't need much. Serves two to three.

6 stalks celery (ie, around 180g)
90ml olive oil
30g pine nuts, roughly broken
40g capers, plus 2 tbsp of their brine
10 large green olives (40g), pitted and cut into 1cm dice
1 good pinch saffron, mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
1½ tsp white-wine vinegar
100g raisins, soaked in water
250g conchiglie pasta
30g chopped parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan (or pecorino for a vegetarian alternative), optional

Trim any leaves from the celery (save them for later) and cut the stalks into 1cm dice. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the diced celery and pine nuts. Over high heat, fry, stirring all the while, for a minute or two until the nuts begin to brown (take care as they can easily burn). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the capers and their brine, the olives, saffron and its water, the vinegar and the drained raisins. Set aside.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain into a colander and shake well. Tip the pasta into the pan, place over medium high heat and, stirring gently, quickly heat through. Once hot, stir in the parsley, lemon zest, garlic and lots of black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed.

Transfer to serving plates or bowls, scatter the reserved celery leaves on top and finish with a little cheese, if you like.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi

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