Before I grew to love the broccolo romanesco, Roman broccoli / cauliflower (or as I sometimes hear it being called cavolo romanesco, Roman cabbage) as much as I do, I was freaked out by it. A vegetable that’s vivid, electric green and has all sorts of spiky formations all over it? It looks like something you’d see in a futuristic movie instead of at a vegetable stand in Italy.
You’re not sure whether to take a ninja sword and chop it up so it doesn’t spontaneously reproduce and take over your living room with its spiky cones, or so that you can boil it and smother it in olive oil. I have a personal recommendation: do the second, but use the ninja sword in either case.
This broccoli is actually part of the Botrytis Group of the Brassica oleracea species which is in essence wild cabbage. Botrytis means really nothing to me, but it does add to the alien life form theory. I would go as far as to say that broccolo romanesco is the most geeky vegetable we have, winning over regular white cauliflower because of its color and coney spikes that are in a fractal formation.
As far as pairing broccolo romanesco with pasta, I have to give credit where credit is due – Rachel from Rachel Eats, a blog from a British woman living in Rome, is the blog I’m currently living through quite vicariously. Winter is especially tough on a food blogger like myself who spends her days in an office. We need really good, natural light to make those photos sing unless we want to invest in a lightbox or artificial lighting that’s good for photography. And I don’t. At least, not yet. Rachel”s cooking and blogging about it, much as I’d like to if I had access to my kitchen in daylight hours, which I don’t unless it’s the weekend.
So in these winter months, I have a choice: either I use those few daylight hours to stay in the kitchen and photograph, or I go out and do something with them. Guess which one I’ve been choosing?
But back to Rachel. W hen I saw her post about pasta e broccoli, I knew I had to try the simple pairing immediately. Now I have weekly requests for this dish!
If you see steam rising from this photo, it’s not a trick – it was hot and waiting for me to devour it after I finished photographing it, which I promptly did. I can’t wait until next week.
Broccolo Romanesco, Roman Cauliflower with Pasta Recipe
Note: I like to use as much of the broccolo romanesco as possible. I suggest cutting up the more tender parts of the stalk into small cubes.
A head of broccolo romanesco (around 1 lb or 1/2 kilo), separated into florets
Extra virgin olive oil (for cooking)
Extra extra read-all-about-it virgin olive oil (for the finishing touch)
Pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano, to taste
250g of your favorite pasta
- Boil salted water in a pot big enough to hold the cut-up broccoli.
- Rinse the broccolo and separate it into florets and cutting the larger stalk pieces into cubes. When the water starts boiling, add the broccoli and boil from 5-8 minutes over medium-high heat (but don’t overflow your pot!) The broccoli should be very tender and starting to fall off your fork when pierced.
- Remove the broccoli from the salted water, but do not drain it – save the water for the pasta! Bring it to a boil again, adding more water if needed for the amount of pasta you’re cooking, and cook your pasta al dente according to the package directions.
- While the water is coming to a boil or the pasta has just been added, in a large frying pan, heat up a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and a clove of garlic if desired. Add the broccoli florets and saute them over medium-high heat, starting to gently smash them with your wooden spoon so they get nice and creamy.
- After the pasta is drained, mix together the pasta and the broccoli off the heat and add an extra touch of the extra-extra very good olive oil so that the crude, uncooked olive oil taste comes through. Serve and add some grated pecorino romano cheese or parmigiano reggiano.
Serves 3-4 people, or two very hungry ones.
Some of the liquid gold I topped off this pasta dish with:
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