She’d mentioned that she’d seen a lime-coloured cauliflower broccoli up in Bologna, asking if we knew what it was when, low & behold, there it was sitting in our veggie van on its winding route through the Gran Sasso Mountains of Abruzzo, on its bi-daily visit!
What Barbara was talking about was Roman Cauliflower, also known as Romanesco Broccoli (Romanesco), which could easily be Nature’s glory piece on the vegetable front, from a design POV at least. Available Sept thru to November, its vivid spiralling florets will charm any lovers of fractals or fans of Fibonacci, the Italian Medieval Mathematican, who explained sequencing – in the Romanesco’s case, how each peaked floret is an identical but smaller version of the whole in its entirety.
Not only can this masterpiece give a twirl on the plate, it tastes rather good too, sweeter than regular cauliflower with a hint of nutty broccoli and which mimics the cooking time of broccoli rather than cauliflower – great for those in a rush.
Now, one thing I enjoyed back in the UK was cauliflower soup, especially on autumn evenings as a supper dish. I wondered if there was anything similar and came across this Abruzzo thick soupy dish, originally made with broken spaghetti and the more usual widely known cauliflower. I substituted the cauliflower with the Romanesco and Conchetti and it wasn’t too bad!
Romanesco Cauliflower Soup with Conchigliette
(Minestra di cavolfiore e conchigliette)
1 small onion
2 celery sticks
1 large carrot
1 medium-sized potato
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of polpo or chopped tomatoes
1 small bag of conchetti or 250 gr. spaghetti broken
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper, 1 bay leaf & olio santo
Prepare the vegetable stock by finely chopping the onion, celery sticks, carrot and 1 potato. Fry the onion, celery and bay leaf together for 5 minutes in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the carrot and potato, a good grind of black pepper and after 5 minutes add 600ml of boiling water and allow to simmer covered for 30 minutes.
Chop the garlic clove and with chopped tomatoes & romanesco broken into small florets add to the vegetable broth and bring back up to the boil. (If you prefer squishy florets then cook for another 5 mins). Add the pasta and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes till its al dente. Take off the heat and leave to stand covered for 5 minutes.
Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and serve with olio santo or some peperoncino.