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Three ways to cook with Romanesco broccoli

Dec 05, 2023Dec 05, 2023

Some people look at Romanesco broccoli and think space alien. Others get all excited and exclaim “fractals!”

Fractals are identical, repetitive patterns in nature of varying size. The tiniest floret on a head of Romanesco broccoli is the same as the largest floret on the entire head itself. There is a mathematical precision to the way this and other fractal plants grow that some people, myself included, find beautiful and riveting.

What this means to home cooks is that it’s best to prepare this gorgeous vegetable in a way that highlights its appearance. Don’t simply chop it, dice it or cut it into steaks. Cook and serve it whole or separate each floret and boil, steam or roast them. They hold their shape well.

You’ll sometimes find Romanesco broccoli identified as cauliflower, broccoli or fractal broccoli. It is a brassica, a cousin of cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and turnips. Although its flavor is closer to that of broccoli, experts believe it’s a cross of cauliflower and broccoli.

We usually can find Romanesco broccoli year-round, but we are currently in its prime season. Several local markets, including Andy’s in Sebastopol and our four Oliver’s Markets, have had mounds of them.

As is the case with most brassicas, Romanesco broccoli is best with strong flavors, including green olives, anchovies, paprika, mustard, capers and boldly flavored cheeses. Here I pair it with a dressing that’s nearly identical to Caesar salad dressing, though it’s prepared in advance, rather than on the food. If you don’t like anchovies, there are suggestions for several other sauces at the end of this recipe.

Roasted Romanesco Broccoli with Anchovy Dressing

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 Romanesco broccoli

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Anchovy Dressing (recipe follows) or other sauce of choice

Lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Trim off any leaves still attached to the broccoli. Set the broccoli on a baking sheet.

Pour some olive oil into a small bowl. Use a pastry brush, dipped in the olive oil, to coat the broccoli. Season with a little salt, set on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Open the oven and use the pastry brush to again coat the broccoli with olive oil. Continue to cook until the broccoli is tender, 15 - 30 minutes, depending on its size.

Remove from the oven and set in a beautiful dish. Garnish with lemon wedges and enjoy right away, with the dressing on the side.

To serve, cut the broccoli into lengthwise quarters or sixths, or you can use small kitchen shears to cut each floret from the main body.

Anchovy Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 to 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Black pepper in a mill

Kosher salt

Put the garlic in a suribachi or mortar, add the anchovies and use a wooden pestle to crush together into a paste. Add the egg yolk, mix well and stir in the mustard and lemon juice. Use a small whisk or fork to stir in the olive oil and fold in the cheese. Season generously with black pepper.

Taste the dressing. If it’s a bit flat, add two or three generous pinches of salt, squeeze some lemon juice on the salt so it dissolves and stir into the dressing. Use right away or refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 days.

Other sauce suggestions: aioli, beurre noisette (brown butter) and capers, chermoula, Dijon vinaigrette, Italian-style salsa verde and whole-milk yogurt with za’atar.


Here you have a very flexible dish you can serve alongside roasted meats and poultry, as a vegetarian main dish or as a salad, with or without pasta (see the variation at the end of the recipe).

Roasted Romanesco Broccoli with Feta, Green Olives and Celery Vinaigrette

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 Romanesco broccoli, florets separated

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Celery Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

4 celery stalks, trimmed and cut in very thin diagonal slices

½ lemon

1 tablespoon capers

3 ounces (¾ cup) crumbled feta

¾ cup green olives, such as picholine or castelvetrano, pitted and halved

1 tablespoon fresh snipped chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the broccoli florets on a small sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toss gently. Set on the middle rack of the oven and cook until the florets are tender, about 15 minutes or a bit longer. Remove from the heat and let cool briefly.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette and set it aside.

Pour a little olive oil into a saute pan, set over medium heat, add the celery and saute until it just begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of the half lemon, season with salt and remove from the heat.

Put the florets and celery into a wide, shallow bowl. Add the capers, feta and green olives and toss gently. Drizzle vinaigrette over everything, scatter chives on top and enjoy right away.

Celery Vinaigrette

Makes about ⅔ cup

1 small shallot, minced

2 celery stalks, cut into very small dice

Kosher salt

½ teaspoon celery seed

2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

Put the shallot and celery into a small bowl or a pint jar, season with a few pinches of salt and add the celery seed. Pour in the lemon juice and set aside for about 15 minutes.

To finish, stir in the mustard and olive oil. Taste and correct for salt and acid. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Variation: Cook about 6 ounces orecchiette (small, ear-shaped pasta) in salted water until just done; drain and add to the bowl with the broccoli and celery.


This soup is one of my favorites for this time of year. I enjoy it at breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a late-night snack.

Romanesco Cheddar Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large Romanesco broccoli

Olive oil

Kosher salt

1 yellow onion, minced

5 or 6 garlic cloves, minced

1 large (about 12 ounces) potato (russet or Yukon Gold), washed, peeled and thinly sliced

6 cups homemade chicken stock or broth

1 pound cheddar cheese, grated

Black pepper in a mill

Suggested toppings: ½ cup of chopped Italian parsley leaves, cilantro leaves, thinly sliced green onion or freshly toasted breadcrumbs

Olio nuovo, hot sauce or crème fraîche, optional

Preheat oven — a toaster oven is ideal — to 375 degrees.

Break or cut the broccoli into individual pieces, which should come off easily when pulled; if they don’t, use a sharp knife to cut them off, leaving each one intact. Put them in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt. Toss very gently and set on a small baking sheet or sheet of aluminum foil. Cook until just beginning to become tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour some olive oil into a large saucepan, set over medium heat, add the onion and saute until fragrant and tender, about 12 minutes; do not let it brown. Add the garlic, saute 1 minute more and season with salt.

Add the potatoes, cook for 2 minutes and add the stock or broth. Simmer for about 12 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

While the potatoes cook, separate the tiniest florets from the larger ones and set them aside. Add the larger ones to the pot and continue to cook until they are fully tender, about 5 - 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat, let rest for about 10 minutes and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.

Return the pot to very low heat, add the cheese and several generous turns of black pepper and stir until the cheese is fully incorporated. Fold in the reserved florets. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. If it’s is too thick, thin with water until you achieve your desired consistency; heat through as needed.

Ladle into soup plates, top with your choice of suggested toppings and condiments and enjoy right away.

The soup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 4 to 5 days. Reheat gently.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.” Email her at [email protected].

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or [email protected]. On Twitter @dianepete56

Roasted Romanesco Broccoli with Anchovy DressingAnchovy DressingOther sauce suggestionsRoasted Romanesco Broccoli with Feta, Green Olives and Celery VinaigretteCelery VinaigretteVariationRomanesco Cheddar Soup