Kristine Kidd - Fresh Gluten-Free Food

Market Inspirations
Spaghetti with Romanesco Cauliflower

romanesco.cauliflower.jpgRomanesco Cauliflower: Found at Weiser Family Farms stands at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: Choose regular cauliflower.

I have been curious about this fantastical looking vegetable ever since I first noticed it at a street market in Rome, about 5 years ago. Now it is available in Los Angeles, but so far I have only seen it at farmers’ markets.  Its wondrous shape, reminding me of a bouquet of tiny cones, is described mathematically as a fractal, but I like to think of it as a natural art form. The flavor is more delicate than regular cauliflower, with slightly nutty nuances, and it has a more tender texture.
Roasted, this highly nutritious vegetable makes a satisfying side dish, or, as in the recipe below, can be the star of a pasta creation. Simply cut off the florets, starting at the base and working up towards the tip, and then toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a hot oven until brown in spots, crispy on the outside yet yielding in the center. 

Romanesco is also wonderful raw, and becomes a crunchy conversation piece on a crudité platter. It goes well with yogurt spiked with garam masala or curry powder and minced fresh cilantro; mayonnaise and yogurt mixed with chopped scallions and lemon juice; tahini flavored with fresh lemon juice and ground cumin and thinned with a little water; or anything in which you like to dip regular cauliflower. 

Last night I cooked the miniature cauliflower cones in a chickpea and kale soup, seasoned with onions, minced fresh ginger, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest and juice. 
Here is a recipe to get you started with Romanesco, but this pasta is also excellent with regular cauliflower. 
Spaghetti with Romanesco Cauliflower and Olives
Makes 2 servings
20 ounces Romanesco cauliflower (about 2 large or 3 medium heads) or regular cauliflower
2½ tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces gluten-free spaghetti
3 large shallots, sliced into thin rounds
Scant ¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more to pass at the table
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, optional
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Using a small sharp knife, and starting at the base of the Romanesco cauliflower, cut off the florets, or cut regular cauliflower into 1-inch florets. Place the cauliflower in a large bowl. Add 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Transfer the cauliflower to a heavy, rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast until the cauliflower is brown in spots and almost tender, stirring once, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water, and cook until just tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes. 
While the pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and sauté until the shallots start to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook until hot, about 3 minutes.
Ladle off 1 cup of water from the pasta and reserve; drain the pasta. Add the pasta, and olives to the skillet. Add the reserved 1 cup pasta cooking water and stir over medium heat until the liquid thickens slightly and the mixture is blended, about 30 seconds. Mix in the parsley, 1/3 cup cheese, and 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta between 2 warmed plates.  Serve right away, passing more cheese at the table. 

Tags: cauliflower , market inspiration , romanesco , spaghetti

Categories: Gluten Free, Market Inspirations, Meatless/Almost Meatless , New Finds, Pasta, Recipes


Charles G Thompson
January 25, 2011 10:08 AM

Hi Kristine. I see this at the farmers' market all the time and have been very curious. Thanks for the explanation and all the great cooking suggestions. I'm going to give it a try.

January 25, 2011 11:03 AM

A lovely spaghetti dish! That is a wonderful cauliflower.



Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy
January 30, 2013 9:24 AM

Thanks so much for all your tips for cooking with this beautiful vegetable. I too found it at the farmers market and ended up roasting it like regular cauliflower. I am so happy to try your ideas and this wonderful pasta for more ways to enjoy this beauty. I love all the expertise you add into your posts, yet your recipes are so fresh and approachable. Can't wait to browse around some more. Best, Dana

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