If you are looking for a winter pasta still packed with fresh vegetables, this Romanesco pasta is the perfect fit. Nutty Romanesco cauliflower is softened into a creamy sauce with lots of umami flavor for a light but filling dinner.
When you come across a new ingredient, you just have to experiment with it! I recently found Romanesco at the local farmer’s market, and never having used it before, I went looking for something interesting to make.
I came across this tasty sauce for pasta that focused just on the Romanesco. It also includes some wonderful savory elements. It’s a pasta sauce that is uncluttered and just highlights the beautiful flavors of the vegetables and the pasta.
This is a great dish to serve with a high-quality whole-wheat pasta – or even a homemade one! Because the sauce is based on highlighting simple flavors, you will absolutely be able to taste the flavors of the pasta itself.
You should definitely select a whole wheat pasta to go with this beautiful sauce. Not only are whole grains a great addition to a healthy diet, the nutty flavor complements the Romanesco perfectly.
What is Romanesco?
Romanesco is a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower or broccoli. In fact, you might also hear it referred to as Romanesco cauliflower. Like cauliflower, the florets are closely bunched and have a smoother texture. But instead of rounded bunches, Romanesco has spiky, conical florets.
In terms of flavor, Romanesco tastes somewhere between cauliflower and broccoli – very delicate, almost nutty. It’s less bitter than broccoli, which makes it a great option for those who aren’t as fond of it. You can use it as a direct replacement for broccoli in any recipe. Try it in broccoli pancakes for a fresh, new option.
Like cauliflower, Romanesco gets soft and tender when cooked. This means that you can make a creamy sauce – very similar to my shrimp kale pasta with cauliflower.
Do you really need anchovy?
While you might be tempted to leave out the anchovy from this romanesco pasta, I urge you not to. There is only a small amount, but it adds a depth of savory flavor known as umami. And the extra bite of salt that any preserved fish brings as well. That, in combination with the sweetness from the raisins and the fragrance of the saffron make a complex dish where each ingredient supports the rest.
One of the best ways to cook fresh produce without losing color and flavor is to blanche them. When blanching, you cook the vegetables in boiling water for a short period of time before cooling them quickly in ice water.
In this case, it allows the Romanesco to soften to the point it can be crumbled into a creamy sauce. But blanching preserves the fresh vegetable flavor. You can have that beautiful flavor, but with a soft creamy texture too.
It’s all the best in one dish. A perfect balance of flavors with lots of fresh vegetables. Make the most of flavorful Romanesco with this delicate pasta. It is a great vegetable that deserves to be celebrated for the freshness it brings to the fall and winter vegetable season.
Creamy Romanesco Pasta
- 1/2 lb (225g) whole wheat penne pasta , or any other pasta of your choice
- 1 lb (450g) romanesco
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 3 anchovy fillets in olive oil , drained
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- pinch saffron threads
- salt and black pepper , to taste
- grated parmesan cheese , for serving
- Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, cut the Romanesco into small florets. Cook in a pot with salted boiling water until just tender when pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked florets to a bowl filled with iced water. Reserve the cooking water.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion and anchovies. Cook until just softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the cooked Romanesco florets, bay leaf, raisins, and pine nuts. Pour in some of the reserved Romanesco cooking water enough to cover the ingredients.
- Soak the saffron threads in a tablespoon of hot water for a couple of minutes and stir into the skillet.
- Cook, breaking up the Romanesco with a wooden spoon and stirring, until the sauce gets creamier and more dense. It can take about 5 minutes or more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Finally, stir in the cooked pasta. Serve sprinkled with some grated Parmesan cheese.
- This pasta can be made with cauliflower instead of Romanesco. Both soften down to a creamy sauce.
- The recipe adapted from “The Long and the Short of Pasta” by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi.