Walk through any market in Rome in February and your eye will doubtlessly be drawn to the distinctive pointy heads of broccoli romanesco stacked up on the vegetable stalls. This vivid green vegetable has a similar consistency to cauliflower but with beautiful fractal florets which spiral in a Fibonacci sequence, making it a mathematician's vegetable of choice. To allow the delicate, nutty flavour to shine through, broccolo romanesco is often served ripassato; simply cooked and finished in a pan with the Italian staples of olive oil, garlic and chilli.
This recipe uses a similar method but cooks the broccoli almost into a sauce to serve with pasta, adding the salty tang of pecorino romano and a little umami depth from the anchovies which are dissolved into the oil at the start.
Serve the dish with a chilled glass of local white such as Frascati Superiore for a quick, delicious and nutritious winter lunch.
1 small broccolo romanesco (about 700g)
180g rigatoni or tortiglioni pasta
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets in olive oil
3 handfuls of pecorino romano
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, cut the broccoli into small florets and cook for 5-8 minutes until just tender.
Meanwhile in a large frying pan heat a generous splash of olive oil and begin to gently cook the garlic and chilli. Add the anchovies and stir until dissolved, be careful not to brown the garlic.
With a slotted spoon transfer the broccoli to the frying pan, conserving the boiling cooking water. Add the pasta to the same water so that it absorbs the flavour of the broccoli.
While the pasta cooks gently fry the broccoli until it softens and starts to break down. If it becomes too dry add a little water from the pasta pan. Once the pasta is al dente drain and add to the frying pan. Stir well to cover the pasta with the broccoli, adding a couple of handfuls of pecorino romano to thicken the sauce.
Serve with another good sprinkle of pecorino on top.