Whoa. I was barely through my bowl of this roasted romanesco with rigatoni and a deeply flavorful red sauce when I knew I had to share it with you.
But be warned. This is good.
It’s possible that I could write a love story about almost any vegetable or fruit. This one is about romanesco.
I fell in love with romanesco in Italy in 2014. I was living in a little apartment with a tiny balcony and bright red refrigerator, blissfully eating sour cherry jam with stracchino cheese on toast every morning. I’d wander down to visit the merchants selling olive oil pressed in their orchards, fresh eggs, and loads of magnificent vegetables. We’re talking about the level of beauty that stops you in your tracks. A blood orange spilling its deep garnet pigment onto the sidewalk as one merchant cuts it open for a snack. Spinach caked in the dirt it was picked from, glowing early spring onions, and romanesco. With its spirals and intricate details, almost romantic up close. The fact that nature created something that looks like this makes me wonder if Mother Nature herself has a hobby as an artist. That’s the only explanation I can muster.
Romanesco is similar to cauliflower, only better. It has a bit of a different flavor, and its beauty makes it taste wonderful. Just kidding, but eating really beautiful food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and it’s easy when working with spectacular ingredients. I especially love working with foods that remind me of my travels, which are such cherished and special memories to me.
This past Saturday we rode our bikes to our local farmers market. Wandering the aisles, I spotted a half-empty basket of small romanesco heads that immediately brought me back to that small village in Italy. The seller apologized that the larger ones had been picked over, but I was a bit gleeful to find these small ones, perfect for a single serving. Imagine a dinner party where each person gets their own mini romanesco! Face it: everything is better when it’s miniature. Fact of life. So I picked up two – one for each of us – and began mentally plotting what I would create.
And here we are. This recipe takes about 2 hours to make, which sounds kind of crazy, but a lot of that time is passive. It’s a great dinner to make when you don’t have a lot of time for active cooking and you can just putz around the house, read a book, get some work done, or spend time with your family while the romanesco roasts away and the pasta boils. It almost makes itself. (almost)
Whole Roasted Romanesco with Sun Dried Tomato RigatoniPrint Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
- Sprinkle chili flakes - to taste
- 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed with the back of a wooden spoon
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp anchovy paste
- 1 tsp trader joes umami paste
- 3/4 cup white wine, split
- 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup prepared tomato sauce (I used Mezzeta)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 small romanesco heads
- 1/2 box rigatoni
- Romano cheese, to serve
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a 6 qt dutch oven over medium-low heat.
Peel, crush, and slice 2 garlic cloves and add to pan. Add chili flakes and 3/4 tsp fennel seeds. Let sizzle for 30 seconds.
Add tomato paste, anchovy paste, and Trader Joe's Umami Paste. Stir and simmer for 30 seconds.
Deglaze the pan with white wine and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add half of the sun dried tomatoes and all of the sliced red onion. Simmer for about a minute to allow some alcohol to cook off.
Add the vegetable broth and stir. Nestle the romanesco heads in the onion slices, cover, and place in the oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes, checking after every 30 minutes or so for doneness.
Once the romanesco is cooked fully, set the dutch oven aside and boil the pasta.
Remove the romanesco from the dutch oven and set aside with foil over the top to keep them warm. Heat the dutch oven over low heat and add the rest of the sun dried tomatoes, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 2 tbsp butter. Stir occasionally until the butter melts and the sauce heats through.
Toss rigatoni with the sauce and spoon into your serving platter. Top with roasted romanesco heads and romano cheese.
You could sub a whole green cauliflower if you can't find Romanesco, but it wouldn't be quite the same.