After our visit to Sora Margherita, I found I could not get the broccoletti ripassati out of my mind. Soft, delicately sweet and nutty, redolent of roasted garlic and chilies, it was a perfect wintery comfort food, and I wanted to replicate it at home.
So last week I went in search of a nice Broccolo Romanesco. It is in the Brassica oleracea family, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. Not to be confused with regular broccoli (Brassica oleracea Italica Group), Romanesco broccoli (Brassica oleracea Botrytis Group) is bright green and pointy and has been grown in Italy for centuries. It is most closely related to cauliflower and tastes a bit like it–though it is richer and more tender. And while it is sometimes labelled “broccoflower,” it should not be confused with the other, more common “broccoflower” that looks just like a green cauliflower. By now, I’m sure you are confused…. But rest assured, if you see a swirly, pointy, highly decorative Broccolo Romanesco, you will immediately know it is the one that is not like the others.
And if you do see one, grab it, take it home, and make some Broccoletti Ripassati; you won’t regret it. You can it eat it as a side dish, on its own (pictured up top as an oh-so-good, next-day lunch eaten with a spoon)–or mixed into pasta with some of the cooking liquid, as is very common in Rome.
1 head Romanesco broccoli
roughly 8 c. chicken or vegetable broth (I used water and chicken bouillon cubes at slightly less than full strength)
1/4 c. olive oil, plus extra as needed
freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. chili flakes, or to taste
4 medium garlic cloves, minced–plus another 2 cloves, minced (optional)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1. Trim the broccoli, cut it in half, cut out the core, and separate each half into florets.
2. Bring the broth to a boil and simmer the florets in the broth until they are soft enough to be pierced with a fork–it should take less than 10 minutes.
3. Drain the florets, reserving 1 c. of the cooking water.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and grind some black pepper over the top. Add the chili flakes, cook for about a minute, then add the 4 cloves of minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds while stirring, then add the broccoli and stir to coat it with the garlic.
5. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring periodically and scraping up any bits from the bottom of the skillet, until parts of the broccoli turn very slightly golden. During the course of this second cooking, the broccoli will begin to disintegrate, which is perfect.
6. If the broccoli gets too dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid and/or olive oil. You do not want the broccoli to be either too wet or too oily; you want it to be soft, moist, and almost slow roasted.
7. Sprinkle the red wine vinegar over the broccoli and cook until the vinegar has evaporated. Add the remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, and cook for another 5 minutes (the first batch of garlic contributes to the slow-roasted taste; this batch adds a little extra kick–but it’s optional).
8. Season to taste and serve.