A much-loved dish in Rome, pasta e broccoli is often made with broccolo Romanesco (Romanesco cauliflower), a curiously beautiful, lime-green vegetable with intricate clusters of closely packed florets. Cooked Romanesco has the texture and feel of good, creamy cauliflower but the taste of broccoli. Romanesco is best, but I have also made successful versions of pasta e broccoli with ordinary broccoli, purple-sprouting broccoli and cauliflower.

Serves 4


  • 1 large head Romanesco cauliflower, or broccoli
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small, red fresh, or dried, chili
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 14 ounces short pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino or Parmesan, plus extra to serve


    Pull away the tough outer leaves, cut away the hard stem and break the Romanesco, or broccoli, into small florets. Bring a large pot of water to a fast boil, add salt and stir; then add the florets. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender, which will depend on how fresh the Romanesco is. Use a slotted spoon to lift the florets into a colander.

    Meanwhile, peel and gently crush the garlic with the back of a knife and chop the chili. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and chili and cook gently, until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to brown, or it will be ruinously bitter. Remove the garlic.

    Bring the same water you cooked the Romanesco in back to a fast boil and add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, add the Romanesco to the frying pan and stir so that each floret is glistening. Add salt, stir again and mash the florets gently with the back of a wooden spoon so they break up. Either drain the pasta, saving some of the cooking water, and tip it into the Romanesco pan; or, better still, use a slotted spoon to lift the pasta into it. Throw over the Parmesan or pecorino and stir vigorously so that the pasta mixes with the Romanesco. Serve immediately with more cheese.

    Excerpted from My Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy. Copyright © 2016, by Rachel Roddy. Used with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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