Easy and delicious Romanesco pasta recipe: step by step instructions to recreate this typical Rome pasta dish at home.
Romanesco is a type of broccoli popular in Rome and surrounding are. Its name ‘Romanesco’ means ‘of Rome’ and it is indeed an ingredient you find often in the capital, in restaurants but even more in private homes, especially served with pasta.
Romanesco pasta is a delicious, easy to make Rome dish that you can make as vegetarian or prepare as full meal adding sausage.
This is the pasta Romanesco recipe I use: it is a super easy to make, tasty and a favorite with my kids too.
What is a broccoli Romanesco? Different names, same vegetable
In shops, you find broccoli Romanesco under several names such as broccolo romanesco, romanesco, broccolo romano, Roman cauliflower, Romanesque cauliflower.
In Rome it is also common to simply call it ‘broccoli’ so if you are buying while in Rome, don’t be surprised if a request for broccoli gives you this vegetable rather than the broccoli you may be used to at home!
In terms of appearance, it looks very much like a cauliflower but it is greener, pointier and, once cooked, it has a firmer textures that makes it perfect especially as a complement to pasta.
Its taste is mild and this is why in this dish it is mixed with sausages, which the Romanesco complements well both for bite and taste.
Ingredients for 4 people
350 gr pasta (I used mezze maniche, short pasta works best)
1 Broccolo Romanesco, medium size, washed and chopped
1 Italian sausage – take it our of its skin and use a fork so that it loses its shape and looks like minced meat
50 gr pecorino (or parmesan)
A dash of olive oil for pan cooking
1 clove of garlic
Red pepper flakes for heat (Optional)
Equipment you need for this Romanesco pasta recipe
A large pot to boil the romanesco and then the pasta
A strainer (opt for a strainer spoon, so you don’t have to throw out the romanesco water. See below)
A skillet or pan with high sides (you need enough space for it to contain the pasta as well as the condiment so you need sides tall enough to allow for it or a large pan so it doesn’t dall out when mixing)
A wooden spoon
Pasta with Romanesco: step by step instructions
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add a bit of salt and pour in your chopped Romanesco.
Let cook for about 5 minutes and, when the romanesco is tender, use a strainer to drain and set aside.
Leave the pot with water on the heat and bring it back to the boil: you will use this same pot to cook your pasta – you can add more boiling water and more salt, should it not be enough to cook your pasta comfortably but using the same water will add extra flavour to the dish.
Once it boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Top tip: make sure you do not overkook the pasta. The last passage of this recipes has it cooking in the pan so it it paramount that you take it off the boiling water when it is still crunchy or you will get an overcooked, mushy result.
In a large skillet or pan, add a little olive oil and the garlic clove (cut in half) and heat it up.
Once hot, add the sausage and let it cook until the sausage is golden and fully cooked.
Then add to the same pan the Romanesco broccoli and let them cook together on low heat.
Use the pasta boiling water to moisten the mixture if needed.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and pour it into the broccoli and sausage and mix well. Add pecorino and serve hot.
If you prefer to make this pasta with Romanesco vegetarian, you can easily eliminate the sausage and cook the rest as presented in this recipe.
In that case however, I recommend you also add some black pepper to compensate for the lack of flavor from the meat and consider adding roasted pine nuts or almond flakes to add crunchiness.
The best pasta shapes for Romanesco pasta
The pasta shapes that work best with this recipe are short ones such as:
- Mezze maniche
- Orecchiette (not from Rome but from Puglia however very popular in the capital)
- Pennette (small penne)
Possible alternatives for the sausage
If you prefer not to use a sausage, there are a couple of alternatives you can try:
Pancetta (in cubes) – the sweet type, for a milder taste.
Speck (in cubes) – this gives a smokier taste to the plate and a different bite. If using speck, I recommend using red pepper flakes to add a bit of heath
Anochovies and capers – nice and salty, make sure you don’t go overboard with salt and taste as you go since both anchovies and capers will add a good bit of saltiness to the dish
Roasted pine nuts – a lovely way to add bite and a nutty flavour to a vegetarian version of this dish
How to serve pasta with Romanesco and recommend side dishes
Pasta with Romanesco is best serve hot so I recommend you serve it as a piping hot bowl of pasta that you place at the center of the table once your guests are seated.
While you will have pecorino or parmesan already in the pasta, alway add extra pecorino on the side, freshly grated so that people can add to their own taste.
If you are using the romanesco and sausage version of this recipe, you are already serving a full meal so you don’t need to add a second course however, if you want, this pasta works well with a side dish of puntarelle salad or if you want a second course, you can serve agnello scottadito (scottadito lamb) or saltimbocca alla romana.
They work particularly well with this dish if you are using the vegetarian version of the dish.
I hope you enjoyed this Romanesco Pasta Recipe and you have success making it at home!
Romanesco Pasta Recipe
This is an easy to make, delicious pasta dish that uses one of the most popular vegetables in Rome: Romanesco Broccoli.
The pasta can be made as a complete main, with pasta (carbs), sausage (proteins) and romanesco (vegetable) or you can prepare it as a vegetarian dish, simply omitting the sausage or replacing it with roasted pine nuts.
If you prefer, you an also try it with tuna however, the version with the sausege is the traditional one and the one you are most likley to find / have tried in Rome.
This pasts is best served hot so I recommend you make it last minute (it will not keep you busy at the hobs, it is not a labor intensive dish) and serve it in a large bowl, piping hot.
- 350 gr pasta (I used mezze maniche, short pasta works best)
- 1 Broccolo Romanesco, medium size, washed and chopped
- 1 Italian sausage – take it our of its skin and use a fork so that it loses its shape and looks like minced meat
- 50 gr pecorino (or parmesan)
- A dash of olive oil for pan cooking
- 1 clove of garlic
- red pepper flakes for heat (Optional)
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add a bit of salt and pour in your chopped Romanesco. Let cook for about 5 minutes, then use a strainer to drain and set aside.
Leave the pot with water on the heat and bring it back to the boil: you will use this same pot to cook your pasta – you can add more boiling water and more salt, should it not be enough to cook your pasta comfortably. Once it boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
In a large skillet or pan, add a little olive oil and the garlic clove (cut in half) and warm it up: once hot, add the sausage and let it cook until the sausage is golden and fully cooked.
Then add to the same pan the Romanesco broccoli and let them cook together on low heat. Use the pasta boiling water to moisten the mixture if needed.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and pour it into the broccoli and sausage and mix well. Add pecorino, mix well and serve hot.
Other pasta recipes from Rome you may like
If you are looking for more pasta recipes from Rome, you may also like our recipes for:
Real carbonara – step by step authentic carbonara recipe
Cacio e pepe – simple yet punchy Rome pasta dish
Amatriciana – tomato baste paste sauce from the Rome region
Pasta alla gricia – tasty pasta from Rome often referred to as a ‘white carbonara’
Find all our Rome pasta recipes here