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Romanesco

Romanesco

Despite looking like something from Deep Space Nine Cardassian cuisine, this spiral-studded vegetable has been growing right here on Earth for a few hundred years. Romanesco, or Roman cauliflower, might look strange, but its taste is very familiar — a gentle cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

When I saw it at the Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago, I just couldn’t resist. I brought it home, admired it from all angles, took a few photos, and stuck it in the fridge. Then I waited for culinary inspiration. Surely something this visually stimulating would trigger an equally stunning dish.

Days passed.

All I could think of was soup. Boring pseudo-cauliflower soup.

Eventually, based on what was in the cupboard, I made a variation of the Quick Fresh Tomato and Herb Pasta. To be perfectly honest, I think the tomato was too pushy and overpowered the star vegetable. While the resulting sauce was tasty enough, I suspect the romanesco would have fared better in a subtle Alfredo sauce. But this is healthier. And I’m not going to waste the opportunity to share a recipe.

So, flying in the face of food blogging standards everywhere, I offer you a recipe I openly acknowledge as merely mediocre — not so much in hopes that you’ll follow it, but on the odd chance you can show me the error of my ways.

What do you do with your Romanesco? Is this vegetable best as a simple side? Or am I right about the creamy Alfredo sauce? Speak up. Logic dictates the informed amongst you will offer advice when asked. Oh wait. That’s Vulcan philosophy. According to Wikipedia, Cardassians are “cunning and suspicious”.  Great. Now you’ll think I’m trying to poison you.

Romanesco-Pasta

Pasta Romanesco

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • flat pasta of choice (tagliatelle or pappardelle work nicely)
  • 1 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly slivered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 to 3 ripe tomatoes (enough to roughly equal the amount of Romanesco), diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 2 tbsp cream (optional)
  • 1/2 head Romanesco, cut into small pieces
  • salt to taste
  • fresh ground pepper
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Instructions

  1. Put a generous amount of lightly salted water on the boil. When it boils, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. Heat a  large skillet or wok over medium heat. Gently, gently saute the bay leaf and garlic in the oil for a few minutes until the garlic softens.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add diced tomatoes and cook a couple of minutes until they begin to break down.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and puree the tomato mixture with an immersion blender. Add the basil.
  5. Add cream, if using, and bring sauce to a boil.
  6. Add the romanesco and cook until it’s tender-crisp.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. When the pasta is al dente, drain it without rinsing (you want the sauce to stick to the starch), toss the pasta and sauce together, sprinkle with grated cheese.
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0 Responses to Romanesco

  1. Daniel November 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm #

    Thanks for introducing me to a totally new veggie! And any post that contains multiple gratuituous Star Trek references is must-read material in my book.

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

    • Charmian Christie November 19, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

      Dan, aren’t all references towards Star Trek gratuitous?

  2. Cheryl November 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Wait, you mean you expect it to look pretty AND taste phenomenal AND have an exciting, mellifluous name ? Maybe it’s putting all its energy into sprouting those little Christmas trees all over its body instead. Cut the crucifer some slack!

    I almost always roast cauliflower because it’s really the best way to get it deeply browned and caramelized. Maybe this would help with romanesco, too? I understand the drawback of an extra pan to clean, but as my husband does the dishes I can afford to be profligate.

    • Charmian Christie November 19, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

      Cheryl, I ask no more of vegetables than I ask of myself.

      Love the idea of roasting. Andrew does the laundry, so I guess I can clean the pan. Hmmm. Roasted romanesco in Alfred sauce? Hope they have more at the market next week!

  3. Sophie November 19, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    A lovely, lovely recipe!! I only bought Romanesco broccoli once & i made a soup out of it. This recipe is even better,…

    Thanks so much!

    • Charmian Christie November 19, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

      How was the soup? I bet if the romanesco was roasted, like Cheryl suggested, it would be great.

  4. Lori November 19, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    I have never seen or heard of this veg! I was also going to suggest roasting -my new favourite way of cooking veg’s.

    • Charmian Christie November 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

      I love roasted vegetables, too, but tend to think of this method for root vegetables. I’ll have to give romanesco another go.

  5. Amy Proulx November 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    We eat the cauli-cousin of romanesco braised whole, then lightly broiled with a sprinkle of parmesan, garlic, and butter. Creamy alfredo, or anything cheesey sounds equally delicious. Romanesco should come to the table inact, showing all of its logarithmic splendour.

    Someone dropped off purple and yellow cauliflowers at our house. Nothing to write home about. Your romanesco is far more fascinating.

    • Charmian Christie November 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

      Love the idea of bringing this to the table whole. The garlic, butter and Parmesan sound perfect. Dang! I simply must get my hands on more of this and try again. Thanks so much for the feedback!

  6. Dana McCauley November 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    I do love a little Deep Space Nine….and, I love Romanesco. It is really good just steamed slightly and then marinated in a salad with roasted red peppers. Try that next time. I bet you’ll like it!

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 10:07 am #

      Oh, this sounds wonderful too. I love anything with roasted red peppers in it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. Puglette November 19, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    that is a simply beautiful vegetable. i can’t recall ever seeing it before. it makes me think of buckyballs and undersea creatures.
    hugs,
    puglette
    :o)

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 10:08 am #

      Undersea creatures? Yes, this would look at home on a coral reef.

      The architecture of this vegetable is stunning. I almost couldn’t bring myself to cut into it.

  8. laura November 19, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    Well I pickled a couple heads for winter use, my kids love them that way. I also blanched a few more for roasting, they are glorious roasted much better than cauliflower. My kids also love them this way!

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 10:11 am #

      Pickled?! This really is a versatile veggie.

      Great note on blanching before roasting. I’m now itching for more. I think I’ll end up buying 3 heads and eating them all …

  9. Chris November 20, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    I grabbed a head when I was at Fiesta Farms on Sunday, not sure what I’d end up doing with it. I ended up making pretty much the same thing as you, but in a roundabout way. First, I made a ratatouille using it and some other vegetables that were in the fridge and served it on rice. That was kind of a flop with my SO and I had a bunch left over. So, I stewed the remains with a can of chopped tomatoes, mixed in some basil chiffonade and served it on some broad noodles. That worked for SO and he finished his plate. The one thing that struck me was that the Romanesco maintained its form and didn’t melt away like regular cauliflower does – this certainly gives it cause for further experimentation.

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 10:10 am #

      Thanks for the feedback. Good to know it remains firm. I lightly cooked mine, so this is news to me.

      More experimentation is definitely needed. My fingers are crossed that they’ll have some at the Farmers’ Market tomorrow!

  10. chocolate shavings November 20, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    I love romanesco – what a great alternatives to the usual dinner vegetables!

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 10:13 am #

      No nay-sayers so far. Thanks for weighing in. It’s rare to find a vegetable no one hates and this one seems to be a winner.

      Good to know for family gatherings.

  11. Errin November 20, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    I had no idea what to do with this vegetable either…but I appreciate you bringing out attention to it…I am also going to try to hunt some down and give the roasting a go as some of your readers suggested. Thanks!

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

      I’d love to hear what you think of romanesco. I can’t wait to try some of these suggestions.

  12. Cynthia November 20, 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    Wow, in all of my years, I’ve never seen Romanesco. Leave it to the Italians to produce a vegetable that’s as architecturally beautiful as its ancient buildings. I wonder if a gratin would be too heavy for it? I once had a great broccoli/cauliflower gratin with breadcrumbs on top that I just loved.

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

      I think a gratin would be perfect. One reader says the romanesco holds its shape better than cauliflower, so a gratin sounds like an idea solution.

  13. Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart November 20, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

    That is the craziest vegetable I’ve ever seen. Wow!

    • Charmian Christie November 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

      I know. I did a double take at the market and just couldn’t resist. They could have told me it tastes like skunk oil and I’d have taken it home with me just to admire its architecture. I’m thrilled it has a pleasant taste and am excited to try some of the suggestions.

  14. ciaochowlinda November 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    This is one of my favorite vegetables since I ate it in Italy several years ago. I wrote a post on my blog about it last year and will probably have it for Thanksgiving dinner too.

  15. Mr. P November 25, 2009 at 4:33 am #

    I love that you photographed it before you did anything to this!

    I did the same with a January King Cabbage and thought I was crazy.

    Romanesque is like cauliflower’s older, cooler and better looking brother. I love it with olive oil and lemon. I still love plain old cauli too though!

    • Charmian Christie November 27, 2009 at 11:34 am #

      Love your description of romanesco. The olive oil and lemon sounds wonderful, too. I tried to get more of this vegetable at the market last week and there was none. I’m not obsessed and can’t wait to try all these ideas.

  16. Michelle September 14, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I was just in Venice last week and went to the outdoor produce market there where I saw this amazing looking vegetable. I had no idea what it was but took some great photos of it. Now, thanks to you I know what it is and will try to find some at home to cook!

    • Charmian Christie September 14, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

      @Michelle, I’m so jealous. Venice is stunning.

      If you’re looking for ideas, read through the comments as well. There are some great recommendations!

      Think of Italy when you eat your Romanesco.

  17. Jessica D. May 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    This recipe sounds like something I want to try. Also I love the Star Trek refrences.

    • Charmian Christie May 11, 2011 at 7:55 am #

      When doesn’t a Star Trek reference make something better? Enjoy your space food :-)

  18. James Belardo September 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Once I had discovered Romanesco I realized that the classic Cavetelli and Broccoli most-likely stemmed from this root… Romanesco with Cavatelli! The cheese I use also stems from the same era… Romano Pecorino!

    Ah, but what else. People have mention roasted Romanesco, Romanesco Soup! All delicious… I’d like to add a delicious foray with chicken. I had floured chicken chunks with salt, pepper and flour (go figure). In a sauce pan I browned some onions, garlic and finely chopped fresh hot peppers in olive oil and butter. Once translucent I threw in the chicken to brown. As they started to get a golden color I through is some chopped green and red peppers. Once the peppers were beginning to soften I through in a cup of water (water that was previously used to steam broccoli). Once that began to reduce I through in some white wine. When the concoction began to boil I trough in the Romanesco, covered it and waited a few minutes. As it was steaming and reducing (always stirring) I added some grated Romano Pecorino (to taste). When all done I removed it from the heat and through in some chopped Italian flat-leafed parsley!

    My wife loved it!

    • Charmian Christie September 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Sounds fantastic. No wonder your wife loved it!

      Thanks so much for taking the time post the details. I love this idea and the fact you don’t need accurate measurements to produce an amazing meal!!

      Keep cooking!

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