Penne pasta with broccoli romaneschi

penne with broccolo romanesco
“Romanesco broccoli” or “coral broccoli”, it is actually a variant form of cauliflower. Awesomely beautiful, it is also a mathematical plant. Its shape is fractal, meaning that each bud is arranged along a logarithmic spiral and each small spiral participates to a larger spiral to obtain the final form. Fascinating, isn’t it?

This recipe – originally from Puglia – is a brilliant exemplification of the use of umami-rich ingredients in Italian food. A tiny bit of anchovy combined with a healthy sprinkle of cheese brings out the vibrant flavor of the vegetables and makes a perfect pasta sauce. It is ready in 20 min. Happiness for dinner and so very healthy, especially if you use wholegrain pasta.


  • 350 gr (12 ounces) short penne pasta
  • 1 head Romanesco broccoli or green broccoli, though base stalk trimmed, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 anchovy  fillet
  • 1 large clove of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 chili pepper (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoon Parmigiano or Pecorino, grated

For the sauce, use a large sauté pan or a wok. Add garlic, chili pepper if using, olive oil, anchovy and heat over low heat until the anchovy is melted. Do not brown the garlic. Set aside.

Please keep in mind that broccoli will cook in about 5 min and the penne in about 10 minutes.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until 5 min. before the end of the cooking time indicated on the package. Add the broccoli florets, cover and bring quickly to the boil again.

Should you use fresh pasta, you need to reverse the order of cooking as the pasta will cook 1 to 3 minutes depending on the shape. This means boiling the broccoli for about 3 minutes, then adding the fresh pasta.

At the end of the cooking time of the pasta, strain vegetables and pasta, and transfer in the wok containing the garlic mixture. Add 2-3 tablespoon of pasta water, half of the cheese and stir vigorously over high heat until all moisture is absorbed. Serve immediately with more cheese on the side.

For a vegetarian version omit the anchovy and use aged pecorino cheese instead of Parmigiano. This recipe can be made with regular broccoli and sprouting broccoli as well.
Serves 3-4

Broccoli on Foodista


  1. OMG, L. I think you may be my mother reincarnate. Honestly, she died when I was just 16 but many of your recipes are reminders of family dishes that she would cook. Many thanks, menehune

  2. non ho mai visto questa verdura strana (sembra di un’altra pianeta – ma che bella!) ho fatto una piccola ricerca su internet e penso che si possa trovarla qui in California…ma solamente in estate…

  3. Hi – just found you through Diane at Creative Stuctures…you have some great recipes here…My Mom is was Sicilian also, and my father’s family was from Bari…I will definitely check out your B & B website…what a beautiful vegetable and a delicious recipe!

  4. I am completely unfamiliar with this type of vegetable….you learn something everyday. You have super recipes, so I will have to come back to your site. Best to you and your family!

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