Romanesco, or in Italy, Roman Broccoli, belongs to the brassica family. Other members include: cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and Savoy cabbage. It’s in good company, for sure. The intricate geometric pattern, the chartreuse color, and beautiful aesthetics add to the unique quality and lure of this vegetable. It is high in vitamin C, Vitamin K, carotenoids, and the ever popular, dietary fiber. Romanesco is much more easily found in Italy; in the US, it might be harder to find, but always a treat.
Perhaps it does not belong in the Louvre, but if found at the farm market or grocery store, pick up a bunch and let’s make some Italian magic.
In reality, you are consuming the flower bud when eating this part of the plant. I like to strip the leaves from the stem and rough chop the leaves. Then add them to the mix. Waste not, want not, right?
According to Tufts Nutrition, Romanesco belongs in the top 10 of ” Overlooked veggies that are good for you.”
Besides its good looks and high nutritional value, who knew that Romanesco and spaghetti create such a delicious comfort food? Has anyone ever used comfort food and vegetables in the same sentence? When prepared the simple Italian way, with a basic sauce of olive oil, garlic, and peperoncino (chili pepper or red chili flakes), the vegetable takes on a tender and deeply satisfying texture.
For this recipe, easily swap out the Romanesco for equal amounts of broccoli. Or use a combination!
Similar to the Spaghetti and Broccoli Aglio Olio recipe, here we use the Romanesco in place of the broccoli. The process is the same; boil the Romanesco along with the spaghetti in the same pot. It works!
Spaghetti alla Romanesco
- 2 heads Romanesco (can substitute broccoli)
- 4 small garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes (or 1/2 dried chili)
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 tbsp course salt
- optional- Parmigiana cheese for garnish
Prepare the Romanesco
- Wash Romanesco. If any leaves are still attached, remove, and strip the leaf from the stem. Discard the stem. Roughly chop the leaves and set aside. Next, cut the Romanesco (or broccoli if using) into 1-inch sized florets. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring pasta water to a boil. Add the course salt. Use one heaping tablespoon. The purpose of the salt in this recipe is not only to add flavor, but to retain the green color of the Romanesco.
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil in medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and peperoncino or red chili flakes. Heat on low so the flavors infuse the olive oil. Remove from heat until the spaghetti is done.
- Once the pasta water begins to boil, add the salt and then add the Romanesco and any leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes until water returns to a boil. Add in the spaghetti and stir. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Important: Scoop out 1 cup pasta water and set aside. This will be used to thicken the sauce later.
- Reheat the olive oil and garlic. Drain the Romanesco and spaghetti and add them to the olive oil sauce. Stir over medium heat to coat the Romanesco and spaghetti. Add some of the pasta cooking water and stir in to thicken the sauce.
- Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Optional: Garnish with Parmigiano cheese. But it really does not need it!
Broccoli, Peperoncino, and Garlic alla Nana (another variation on the same theme!)
I love how incredibly beautiful and symmetrical the romanesco really is. In permaculture, we learned about Fibonacci and the pattern that occurs in nature. This is it!
Yes, nature is so fascinating! Thanks so much for your comment and feedback, Mary. Math and Italian food!