Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: The Greatest Story Ever Told: Charlton Heston’s Spaghetti with Cauliflower

Here's something for your Easter basket

Woman: "That big green thing half-buried in the sand has a sign that says, 'Carlo's Spaghetti--Open 24 hours!'" Ape: "Bring me back some garlic knots will ya?" Man: "Wrong Charlton Heston movie, you dirty morons!"

When you think of Biblical epics from Hollywood’s Golden Age, as I often do, Charlton Heston immediately springs to mind. “Ben Hur.” “The Ten Commandments.” And, of course, the appropriately titled “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” and that’s no exaggeration. Clocking in at an awe-inspiring 4 hours and 20 minutes, and featuring a galaxy of stars, this is the Wagner Ring Cycle of Tinseltown tales. Sadly, Chuck doesn’t get to play Christ, that role went to Max von Sydow. But he did play John the Baptist, alongside Dorothy McGuire as Mary, José Ferrer (who was married to Rosemary Clooney at the time, making him George Clooney’s uncle; his son, Gabriel Ferrer, married Debby Boone) as Herod Antipas, Telly Savalas pre-Kojak as Pontius Pilate, Roddy McDowell (whom he would reunite with under much different circumstances in 1968’s “Planet of the Apes”) as Matthew, and Claude Rains, in his final film role, as Herod the Great. And others. Angela Lansbury was Mariah. Sal Mineo was Uriah. And David McCallum, who was in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” at the time, got to play Judas Iscariot. I would love to see the payroll for this, but as it turned out it wouldn’t have mattered because it became the 8th-highest grossing movie of all time.

Heston had a spectacular career, transitioning smoothly from litugical work to dystopian futurism in the aforementioned “Planet of the Apes,” “The Omega Man” (the cool original, not the ghastly remake), and “Soylent Green.” Perhaps this is what led him to turn Republican in the 1980s, that or his personal friendship with Ronald Reagan, and take on the presidency of the NRA for five terms. He did not, however, address an empty chair at the 2016 Republican National Convention, that was Clint Eastwood.

I’m not exactly sure where “his” recipe first appeared, but it’s not as strange as it looks. I bet it is actually an old Italian recipe. Cauliflower (“cavolfiore”) is eaten up and down the Italian peninsula, but it’s not as big a deal in Italian restaurants in America, or at least the ones I’ve been to. And I’m also pretty sure this recipe predates the pesto invasion of the late-1970s/1980s, when everything was pesto pesto pesto, so the addition of pine nuts leads me to believe that this is Italian, and not Italian-American.

So here goes:

Charlton Heston’s Spaghetti with Cauliflower

1 small cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 anchovy fillets, cut
1 large can whole or pureed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon currants (fresh or canned)
salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces spaghetti


Break cauliflower into florets. Cook in boiling water about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain. 

Heat oil in a heavy pan or skillet. Add onions. Cook until tender. Add anchovies to oil. Heat and stir for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes. 

Add nuts, currants, and cooked cauliflower. Add salt and pepper and mix well. Simmer over very low flame. Cook spaghetti according to directions. Top with sauce.



  1. Damn you!  God damn you to hell!  Cauliflower?!?!  I dislike it. Not enough to blow up the planet of the Apes, but enough to ruin the neighborhood.  Especially raw.  Cooked, well, I can eat it.

    As for Chuck’s right wing turn as a befuddled gun nut, I think it happened in part because he suffered from Alzheimer’s like his buddy Ron. Brain damage can and has done that to people, even people we like.

    • huh….didnt know cauliflower could be eaten raw

      anyways…i love the stuff

      1 whole cauliflower and a fuckload of cheese sauce is a meal in farscy land


    • Nonsense. I skipped over his heroic film roles in “Earthquake” and “Airport 1975.” I love 1970s disaster films and everyone was in “Airport 1975,” from Myrna Loy and Gloria Swanson to pre-“CHiPs” Erik Estrada and pre-“Three’s Company” Norman Fell.

      In fact, if I printed out the cast list for “Airport 1975” and did a little research I would have enough Celebrity Sunday Matinee FYCE posts to take me through Fall, 2023, at the very least.

    • Tell me something: since you were in Chicago’s vibrant Italian and Italian-American community, did you see much cauliflower/cavalfiore? The only time I remember having it in New York was at a vegetarian Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side, and seeing it and not always ordering it in restaurants in Italy itself.

      Since I’m on the topic and it’s my post, I read an article recently about whether garlic in Italian recipes makes them Italian or Italian-American. Several high-end chefs in New York have substantially reduced or eliminated the use of garlic, because it’s not “Italian,” and in Italy you would use it very sparingly because it masks and overwhelms what should be delicious food in its own right. Other high-end chefs disagreed.

      I seem to remember enough garlic in the meals I’ve had in the Bel Paese, but I’m wondering now if I’m misremembering this. It could be I went to tourist traps but I doubt it, since I’m cheap and adventurous, and often dragged poor Better Half to off-the-beaten-path holes-in-the-wall where no one even pretended to speak English and there were no English menus to be found. In fact, often there were no menus at all, there might be specials on a chalkboard or something or you just asked if they could make something you wanted, and they always could. I can’t believe these little places kept extra garlic on hand to make something all’Americana just in case the odd American found their way there somehow and expected it.

      • I am half Northern Italian and half Southern Italian.  My mom’s side would have gone easy on the garlic and and made the cauliflower with breadcrumbs.  It was very nice.  My dad was the Southern Italian and his family had a heavier hand with the garlic.  There were a lot of great cooks in my clan and I like it both ways.  It led to some internecine friction, but if you know about Italian regionalism, you know that was to be expected.  I have blue eyes from my Mom’s side and I also have natural rhythm from my Dad’s Sicilian side, so I got the best of the deal.

    • He wears a loincloth the better to show off his manly chest and, occasionally, the curve of a buttock. Heston was about 45 when that photo was taken. His wife was a lucky woman. He married at 21 and stayed married to her until his death 64 years later.

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