Romanesco is one of my favorite veggies, in large part just because it looks cool.
Depending on whom you ask, it’s either a type of cauliflower or a type of broccoli. Its milder flavor makes it pretty interchangeable with cauliflower, which is great, because I have lots of great ways to use cauliflower! It’s a pretty versatile veggie, and can serve as the basis for many a meal, which is a good thing, because we almost always get some variety of cauliflower in our weekly CSA box.
This week I decided to try a couple of new uses for the romanesco in our box. We got a couple of heads of it, since they were small-ish, so I mixed one in with some broccoli in a new batch of broccoli cheddar bites for Nora, and one I used for dinner last night, tossed with some pasta, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes,and crushed red pepper, and topped with grated pecornio romano.
It was delicious. Next time I think I’d use tomato paste to liven up the flavor instead of actual tomatoes, but since we had plenty of tomatoes sitting on the counter and were actually out of tomato paste*, one chopped tomato plus a handful of cherry tomatoes worked fine. Since we’re at the tail end of tomato season anyway, I’ve modified the recipe accordingly.
* Drat. Time for a trip to the grocery store. I always try to keep a tube of tomato paste in the fridge for occasions like this, which is oh-so-convenient and much less wasteful than the cans (of which I alwaysend up using less than half at a time).
Gemelli with Romanesco
Based on the pasta described in this article
1 head of romanesco, cut into small florets
6-8 oz. dried gemelli (or other small pasta like ditalini)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed*
pinch dried red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp tomato paste
grated pecornio romano for serving
Boil the romanesco in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and rinse under cold water; set aside. Bring the same water back to a boil and cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat and sauté the garlic and red pepper for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and cook briefly, and then stir in the romanesco. Cook, stirring, until tender and a little golden in places. Turn off the heat and stir in the pasta with a splash of the pasta water. Toss, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with plenty of grated pecorino romano.
*Confession time: I love the packaged minced garlic you can buy in the produce department at Whole Foods. It’s just as good, since it’s fresh rather than canned, and mincing garlic is easily one of my least favorite cooking tasks.