Recipe: Lemony Garlicky Fractal Broccoli with Pasta

I wanted to call this creamy lemony garlicky floral fractal broccoli with pasta, but I thought that might be a tad long.   I haven’t cooked or eaten Romanesco Broccoli before, and the recipes I had all seemed to involve cutting it up small or mashing it, which may taste nice, but does seem to miss the point.  If you have something that looks as spectacular as this broccoli does, it seems rather a pity to pulverise it.  This recipe is lovely and fresh, and has almost a floral taste to it, which surprised me – I think it’s probably from the lemon, but a little bit of it is from the fractal broccoli too.  After all, broccoli is a flower…

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extra virgin olive oil
3 small leeks
4-5 small peppers (I used Italian sweet frying peppers, which have a lot of flavour and sweetness but no heat)
6 cloves of garlic
2 heads of broccoli romanesco
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup white wine
salt, pepper
125g fresh ricotta (not the stuff from a tub)
75g pine nuts, toasted
500g pasts (I used giant rotelle – any big, ridged pasta would do, though)
75g parmesan, grated
1/3 cup fresh mint, sliced
(Vegan / dairy-free variation below)

Now what will you do with it?

Slice the leeks and peppers thinly, and cook very slowly in the olive oil to soften.  (Incidentally, you should not, in general, use extra-virgin olive oil for cooking – I just happened to be out of the standard stuff, and found the flavour worked surprisingly well here, possibly because of the very low heat I was cooking at.)  Finely chop the garlic and add it, keeping the heat low.

Get the water boiling for the pasta.  Chop the broccoli into florets or half florets, and add to the pan.  Raise the heat a little, and stir around. Add the lemon zest, salt and pepper, and sauté a minute or so before adding the white wine.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low – let the whole lot simmer until the pasta is done (this leaves the broccoli a little crunchy, which is how I like it – you can put the pasta on later if you prefer your broccoli soft).

Cook the pasta.  When the it is nearly done, add the lemon juice, ricotta and pine nuts to the broccoli, raise the heat and stir around so that the ricotta coats everything lightly and the lemon juice reduces a little.  Drain the pasta, and add to the broccoli with the pasta and mint.  Stir everything around well (the parmesan will also melt over everything) before you turn off the heat.

Serve!  This makes enough for 4-6 people, depending on hunger / greed levels.


This recipe isn’t hard to veganise.  You’d need to lose the ricotta and the parmesan, which between them provide creaminess and a bit of saltiness and richness.  I’d  replace the ricotta with a blend of one part ground cashews or pine nuts to two parts tofu, seasoned to your taste (or you could use just tofu or tofutti cream cheese).  If you are using pine nuts in your ricotta substitute., you should probably use toasted walnuts in the recipe rather than toasted pine nuts.  Instead of parmesan, I’d add finely chopped green olives and/or capers along with toasted fresh breadcrumbs – all of these flavours go really well with broccoli and cauliflower and will add punch to the dish in an authentically Sicilian way.  If you are feeling particularly Sicilian, you could use chillis to replace some of your sweet peppers, but the whole point of this dish is to show off your lovely broccoli Romanesco – it would be a pity to bury the flavour, so don’t go overboard.

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4 comments for “Recipe: Lemony Garlicky Fractal Broccoli with Pasta

  1. June 7, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    meant to comment on your romanesco the other day – I have bought mini ones from organics stalls at the vic market – and found that roasting it is a nice way not to ruin too much of the look – it is so pretty – love your broccoli in the frying pan – looks so colourful and fractal

  2. June 8, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I’ll definitely try roasting them next time – thank you!

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