Romanesco broccoli pasta salad

Love pasta?  Love a wholesome salad?  Gone are the days when a pasta salad was a prerequisite side dish of a food spread.  It’s time pasta salad had a revamp and made a comeback!  The star ingredient?  Romanesco broccoli!

Romanesco broccoli
Romanesco broccoli

This salad is a nutritious reinvention of the old faithful mayonnaise pasta salad and a celebration of many things: pasta, fresh vegetables, beautiful extra virgin olive oil, plus some simple flavoursome and fragrant ingredients to bring it all together.

It was the purchase of a head of romanesco broccoli that was the catalyst for this dish.  Bright green, almost fluorescent and resembling coral more than a vegetable.  The romanesco broccoli took pride of place in the fruit bowl (why hide it away?), always in sight, waiting for a worthy recipe and its fate to be decided.

When you have beautiful produce, often simplicity is the best approach.  Why change or complicate something when it is already perfect as is?  Which leads to the question, what was the fate of this beautiful vegetable?

Romanesco broccoli pasta salad; an unlikely pair of simple and striking, yet creating perfect balance when brought together.

Romanesco broccoli pasta salad
Romanesco broccoli pasta salad

The beauty of this recipe is that it isn’t dependent on romanesco broccoli, rather beautiful traditional broccoli would work amazingly also, as would entirely different vegetables such as baked pumpkin or baked eggplant pieces.

Romanesco broccoli pasta salad

Serves: 3-4


250 grams pasta shapes of choice

head of romanesco broccoli (or 2-3 heads of broccoli, the combined equivalent size of a medium whole cauliflower)

~1/2 bunch of parsley (I prefer continental over curly), leaves roughly chopped

zest of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 large red chilli, finely chopped (seeds removed)

1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped (I used baby capers)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

30 grams finely grated parmesan

cracked black pepper

Recipe steps

  1. Place a large saucepan of water on high heat and bring to the boil (for pasta)
  2. Place a medium size saucepan of water on high heat and bring to the boil (for broccoli)
  3. Prepare romanesco broccoli*
  4. When medium saucepan of water is boiling, add broccoli florets and cook for 1 to 1.5 minutes only
  5. Drain broccoli and place in ice bath (a large mixing bowl with water and ice cubes) or run under cold water to cool as quickly as possible.  When broccoli is cold, drain and leave to dry
  6. When large saucepan of water is boiling, add pasta and cook as per instructions
  7. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl (can use the same previously used for ice bath) add roughly chopped parsley, finely chopped red chilli, roughly chopped capers, lemon zest and broccoli florets
  8. When pasta is cooked, drain well and add to large mixing bowl
  9. Add remaining ingredients of olive oil, lemon juice and finely grated parmesan (add whilst pasta is warm as it will absorb the flavours and melt the cheese slightly)
  10. Mix well and season to taste with cracked black pepper

*If you’re lucky enough to have a romanesco broccoli, you may be thinking, how do I prepare this?  I most definitely was! It was like when you’re given the task of cutting the beautiful cake, or the roast at Christmas, surrounded by people and all you’re thinking is, how do I cut this without destroying it?   You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been there!  Here’s a (graceful) approach to preparing romanesco broccoli:

Firstly, cut romanesco broccoli at its base, enough to remove all leaves.  Cut the broccoli in half to create two equal halves and then cut each half in half again (so you have four quarters, each showing part of the middle stem).  The last step is to then remove the broccoli pieces from each quarter by cutting down to remove the stem, and by doing so the florets will be cut off and ready to go.

Romanesco broccoli quarters
Romanesco broccoli quarters, before cutting down the remove the stem

Go on…bring the pasta salad back (revamped of course)!