Romanesco cauliflower (or known, too, as Romanesco broccoli) is an inventive sculpture of the highest artistic quality.
Okay. It’s a vegetable, yes, but it’s so beautiful! And a work of stunning, shapely, color-bright art of the garden. If I see one in the produce section I must get it. It’s like a vegetable siren song.
I first encountered Romanesco in Rome one autumn. My friend, Malena, brought some to the apartment we were renting. In Rome it’s in season in autumn. She cooked us a fabulous pasta dish with orecchiette and garlic croutons and cooked-till-creamy Romanesco. I’ve made this same wonderful dish stateside and also tried it with cauliflower (perfect!).
But this time I wanted to keep those playful spiraled cones intact. Instead of making slices to roast, or cutting it willy-nilly, I very carefully cut the head, removing each floweret one by one.
The detailed work was worth it! I laid them out in a pan with just a few ingredients and roasted the beauties (recipe below). They kept their shape and became tender-firm and super tasty.
And still so pretty when brought to the table.
As an added texture you can toast some breadcrumb and sprinkle on top. These breadcrumb got toasted a bit further than I intended…but still good!
Roasted Romanesco Spirals
1 head Romanesco cauliflower
juice of one lemon
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Gently cut off each of the spiral tips/flowerets of the cauliflower. Line a sheet pan with foil. Drizzle some olive oil on pan and scatter flowerets. Sprinkle the lemon juice. Scatter the thyme sprigs. Drizzle olive oil lightly over all the flowerets. Season with salt & pepper. Pour the wine into the pan (this will help steam-roast the cauliflower).
Roast for about 40 minutes until desired tenderness. Serve warm or room temp. Add a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumb if desired.
(For breadcrumb: In a small frying pan heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil with a 1/2 cup breadcrumb or panko. Stir until lightly toasted. Season with salt & pepper.)