Romanesco broccoli displays its fractal-esque nature. Fractals show self-similarity, or comparable structure regardless of scale. In other words, a small piece of broccoli, when viewed up close, looks the same as a larger chunk.
—Scientific American Newsletter “Fractals in Broccoli”
A botanical dilemma, the French call it Romanesco cabbage and the Italians, broccolo Romanesco while in North America it’s Romanesco broccoli or Romanesco cauliflower. Known botanically as brassica oleracea it is native to northern Italy. Romanesco tastes like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.
The unusual spiral pattern has intrigued me for years and I decided to include it in my winter garden. I have space to grow a half dozen cauliflower and purchased a rainbow six-pack of cauliflower so I would have a variety in addition to a single Romanesco. Expecting purple, yellow and white cauliflower, my mix had three Romanesco. I’m on the hunt for recipes featuring Romanesco.
The first head of Romanesco (above) became Lemony Romanesco with Pine Nuts, though I used slivered almonds to good effect. I found that recipe on the Specialty Produce website entry for Broccoli Romanesco. It’s a delightful read and you’ll find links to 23 recipes using broccoli Romanesco. They also summarize its uses in this way.
Broccoli Romanesco can be prepared like cauliflower or broccoli. Separate florets and blanche briefly, then toss with hot pasta and cheese. Boil romanesco florets until tender, then puree with garlic, cream and parmesan. Saute florets in a hot skillet, the stir in a mixture of miso, red pepper, anchovy, almonds and water. Blanch romanesco and cauliflower florets, then combine with grated cheese and bechemel, stuff filling in cannelloni shells, top with tomato sauce and bake.
Tomorrow night it’s Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower Pesto Spaghetti. Like other brassicas, the Romanesco leaves can be consumed raw or cooked. The Specialty Produce website also has an entry for Romanesco Leaves.
So if chartreuse vegetables or fractals are your thing try growing Romanesco or look for it at your local farmers market. If you’re in San Diego, purchase at Specialty Produce.
Postscript: the Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower Pesto Spaghetti recipe noted above is incredible—restaurant quality and worth growing Romanesco for this entree. Romanesco takes nicely to roasting and is my preferred cooking method.