Strangely, the very day after I read this post about pasta with broccoli romanesco on the blog Rachel Eats, I went to the local farm stand and lo and behold, there were several heads of delightfully emerald broccoli romanesco. I’ve never cooked this vegetable before, though I have often admired its geometric spiral patterns, natural fractals, and lime-green color.
(By the way, is anyone besides me obsessed with Caprica? Don’t you think this romanesco would be perfect served in a sci-fi series? It’s so alien and weird and futuristic looking.)
Now, I’ve cooked it three times in the past week, all in this pasta, which I thought delicious and absolutely satisfying. A perfect lunch for one or two, as it takes no effort, and you get to craving it. I didn’t even try cooking my supply of broccoli romanesco any other way – this was so good.
It’s simply a take on an oil-and-garlic sauce, jazzed up with red pepper flakes and deliciously mushy broccoli. Yes, deliciously mushy! Because you mash up the cooked, almost overcooked, tender broccoli, and it helps to coat the pasta with its own warm, earthy flavor. And then you toss the whole lot with parmesan, which is the best sauce.
Broccoli romanesco has a good honest broccoli flavor, but the texture of the florets is like a cauliflower. Which is nice, because the cauliflower texture lends itself well to creaminess.
I guess I was supposed to use a large tubular pasta, but whole wheat spaghetti was all I had in the pantry, and I thought it worked fine. I happen to like the nuttiness of whole-wheat pasta, perhaps because I’m a little nutty myself, and really, whole-grain pastas are getting better and better these days (didn’t you read that article in the New York Times?)
Aside, let me reiterate how happy I am to be exploring such a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables. I feel that living here on the Central Coast, people truly GLORY in their food, in the freshness of their produce. You can go to a local restaurant and the staff are bragging about how sweet their cherry tomatoes are that day, and laughing when your eyes nearly pop out of your head when you taste them, they are THAT good. In the same token, how nice to find fresh and unfamiliar vegetables at the local market, and to cook them in new ways!
Pasta with Broccoli Romanesco
From Rachel Eats
1 small-medium head of broccoli romanesco (about 2 cups of trimmed florets)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
200g dried spaghetti
salt and pepper
Boil the broccoli in a pot of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and use the lime-green water (it looks like Italian soda) to cook the pasta.
Heat the oil gently in a pan (not a non-stick one) over low heat. Add the red pepper flakes and smashed cloves of garlic, and heat for a few minutes until you can REALLY smell the garlic. Then add the broccoli, stir to coat with oil, season liberally with salt and pepper, and cover. Let the broccoli cook gently in the pepper-garlic infused oil until very tender, another 5 minutes or so. Mash up the broccoli and the softened pieces of garlic with a fork (this is why you didn’t use a non-stick pan).
When pasta is done, drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta into the pan with the broccoli mixture, and toss to coat. Add some extra pasta water if the sauce is too dry.
Serve with copious amounts of parmesan cheese grated over the top and then tossed into the pasta, where it well melt and become all savory and gooey and delicious.