Saturday, August 18, 2012

Romanesco - with recipe

wether romanesco, is a type of brocolli or cauliflower seems to be of some debate. i've  found it listed under both varieties of brassica. to me its more cauli-like in appearance but the taste is  mild and creamy, almost nutty, similar to brocolli. romanesco only needs light cooking, as it has a more delicate texture than its brassica relatives, and is perfect raw as crudites. romanesco really does look as good as it tastes, with tiny pyramidal spirals interlocking over each chartreuse head, its a wonder why you don't see more of this veggie on people plates or in their garden plots. my homegrown heads never seem to get perfect buds but you can see what i mean here.

from plot, to plate, to mouth - in minutes
im all for growing interesting varieties of veg that are hard to find on shop shelves. so this beautiful brassica made the grade.  i've been growing romanesco in my garden for the past 3 years with varying success. in fact i've been using the same seed packet the whole time! this 3rd year has given the best crop, so far. which i suspect is due mostly to my pimping new raised beds, filled with 'ancient' rotted sheep manure and a layer of rich compost. its not just the romanesco that are flying it, my potatoes are a verdant living hedge - blocking the garden from prevailing winds! the mangetout have had an amazing crop, and im still getting lettuce leaves 12 weeks later. romanesco is another veg, like celery, that i will always save room for, at least a couple plants, in my garden.
after harvesting the large head, romanesco plants will often send out tasty little side shoots.
i began my seeds like most of my veg indoors in modules, sometime in mid march. when the seedlings are about an inch high, with two true leaves, i thin out the smaller ones leaving room for the strongest to thrive. a few weeks later, when about 5-6 inches high, i harden them off outdoors for one week under wind netting, or a sheltered spot. then plant them out in the ground with around 45 inches of room between plants. there's ample room to also sow lettuces or radish seeds in between the plants, as it takes at least a month or two before the gaps loose vital sunlight. once plants start showing buds its a good idea to feed the plants to get the best crop, i use a seaweed fertiliser that i make at home.

my  romanesco seedlings for a winter crop, getting a head start indoors
this year im also atempting to grow winter romanseco. i've read cauliflowers are much less prone to bolting (going to flower) in the winter than in summer, also pests (see below) related to brassicas aren't around as much in the winter - a big plus! romanesco is generally grown in warmer conditions, places like italy, but im going to give it a go and see, we might have a mild winter? so i started more seedlings indoors last week the same way as above. hopefully the summer season will stay warm for a couple more months for the plants to get a good start. its also a good time to start other winter veg. im also growing: spring cabbage, leeks and radicchio treviso from seed along side my romanesco seedlings, for winter.
become, this...
which does, this
 one word of advice for growing brassicas in your garden is to keep an eye on their leaves. if you start seeing holes forming on the leaves you most likely have a catepillar problem. catepillars are baby butterflies or moths that love to munch away at the tasty leaves of our brocollis and cabbages. to keep this in check, every few days in midsummer, check under the leaves and pick off any live catepillars or - before it gets this far - try and find the little yellow egg clusters and squish them off the leaves. it sounds cruel to kill off butterflies before they are born, but unless you want to see your plants become sad skeletons before your eyes, you'll be happy you did the dirty work. another, less time consuming way, to fend off butterfly larvae is to buy bird netting and drape it over your crop. this also helps against bird attacks, im not especially fond of the look of it in my garden, if i was planting a field of brassicas i would go this route. but i prefer to let my brassicas live out in the open.
ive been on a homemade pasta kick lately, so i decided to use up some of my romanesco in this quick and super easy pasta recipe, using some dried pasta i made last week. this recipe is a rendition of the italian classic: spaghetti aglio, oilio e peperoncino, or spaghetti with olive oil garlic and chilli. all it is is boiled pasta- usually spaghetti- tossed in garlic and chilli infused olive oil with parsely and parmesean. the lightly cooked romanesco florets provide a lovely crunch to the dish, and it comes together in the same time it takes to cook the pasta.


Pasta aglio, oilio, peperoncino e romanesco
2 Servings

this is a great recipe to have on hand for a quick snack or light meal, feel free to experiment with different vegtables. i used irregularly cut pasta for texture and interest, this can also be changed to whatever you have on hand. if you've never tried making your pasta a home, its worth giving it a go, especially if you have a pasta machine collecting dust somewhere. its 100 times better than dried store bought pasta. the hardest part is kneading the dough! a basic recipe is 100g flour ('00' is best) to one egg and a pinch of sea salt, but i found an interesting recipe for a flavoured pasta dough with parsley and calendula petals, here. if you try it let me know! 

2 handfuls pasta of choice: spaghetti, linguini. fettucini are good
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems chopped fine and leaves coarsely chopped
1 large head romanesco (or 2 small heads), cut into florets
salt and pepper to taste
parmesean cheese

  •  bring pot of salted water to boil
  • while water comes to boil place a medium sized saute pan on medium heat, add olive oil
  • when oil becomes hot add the garlic, chilli flakes, and parsely stems, stir until garlic begins to brown
  • add romanesco florets and salt and pepper to pan and saute for 2 minutes, until tender but still a little crunchy.
  • add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, (if romanesco cooks before the pasta is done remove from heat while the pasta cooks)
  • add rest of flat leaf parsley to saute pan
  • using tongs add pasta directly from pot of water to the saute pan - the wet pasta helps make a lovely sauce
  • portion onto serving plates and finely grate parmesean over top and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil


  1. God this looks good! your photos are really amazing! photographing food is really hard - I know - I've tried! mine were a disaster! Yours are fab!


  2. it is hard! my camera has a macro setting which helps with the up close shots.... natural light works best too, i've found. t