Whole Baked Romanesco Cauliflower with Tomato and Olive Sauce

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that you either love straight away or it becomes an acquired taste.  I always thought it was on the bland side especially when cooked too long but I have used many recipes that spice up this humble vegetable.  Cauliflower is nutritious and can be eaten raw or cooked (roasted, boiled, fried, steamed).  The flavor can be described as a mild, nutty flavor and is an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of dietary fiber, folate and vitamin K.  I was at the market on the weekend and spotted this lovely shaped cauliflower and the person selling it said it was cauliflower Romanesco.  Its spiral, pine cone shaped head prompted me to purchase it and use it in this recipe.

Serves 4 (as a side)

recipe from Cook with Jamie
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1 red onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large head of cauliflower, outer green leaves discarded, stalk chopped
olive oil
a handful of black olives, stoned
4 good-quality salted anchovy fillets in oil, drained and sliced
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped
2 x 400g tins good-quality chopped plum tomatoes
red wine vinegar

Find a pan that will fit your whole head of cauliflower in, leaving an inch around the outside of it – this is important, otherwise it won’t cook in the way it’s supposed to.  Add the onion, garlic, chopped cauliflower stalk and a glug of oil to the pan and slowly fry for 10 minutes until softened and with a little colour. Add the olives, anchovies and parsley stalks and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, then half-fill one of the tins with water and add that to the pan, with a good swig of red wine vinegar. Stir everything together, breaking the tomatoes down with a spoon to make sure there are no big lumps, and bring to the boil.

Take the cauliflower and gently push it down into the sauce. If you’ve got the size of your pan right, half of the cauliflower will be in the sauce, half above it. Drizzle with olive oil, put the lid on and let it simmer on a low heat for 50 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the parsley leaves.  Lovely with roast lamb, and it’s also a delicious main course for a vegetarian if you leave out the anchovies.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  This was a lovely way to present an otherwise boring vegetable!  The flavors here mingled beautifully and I love how the anchovies and olives gave this a real Mediterranean taste while the red wine vinegar kicked it up a notch.  Next time I make this I’ll add a pinch of chili flakes.  Delish!

By The Glass Tasting Note:  My last sighting of this intriguing vegetable was last month walking through a vegetable market in Ventimiglia, Italy. The flavours of this dish are all about the Mediterranean coast line. For a wine selection there is no point in exiting the Med.  If you serve this dish on its own, here is an opportunity to think pink as the tannins of red wine might become metallic when mixed with the anchovies and most white wine would fade from existence when confronted with the difficulties of matching liquid upon liquid.  I would opt for the heaviest of rose wine such as those labelled Tavel as the additional alcohol in these rich pinks will help with the challenges of matching liquid to liquid. If you serve it with lamb, than opt for a good Cote de Provence red, especially those that maximize the amount of Cabernet and Syrah in the blend or head down the highway to Bandol where you can find massively flavoured red wines made from the Tannat Grape. Domaine Ott is well known and will please a big crowd or opt for the traditional character of Domaine Tempier.


  1. tiny house plans on December 17, 2009 at 09:21

    I love cauliflower! It is my favorite veggie! I can have it everyday and it is still okay for me. Thanks for sharing! This is something new for me.

  2. The Curious Cat on December 17, 2009 at 11:39

    It looks pretty fab and yes, it is definitely a way to dress this vegy up! I don’t mind it…it doesn’t scream ‘my favourite veg ever!’ to me but it is pretty non-offensive… xxx

  3. The Culinary Chase on December 17, 2009 at 17:38

    Thanks Curious Cat! Definitely a recipe that will convert those who aren’t so enamored with cauliflower. Cheers!

  4. Alessandra on December 17, 2009 at 23:44

    Ciao Heather, thank you for the visit, you also have a lovely blog. And I learned that possibly in Canada you call broccoli romani Romanesco Cauliflower (?)


  5. Melanie on December 17, 2009 at 23:52

    Just found your blog thanks to TIBS. Are you on twitter? I don’t see a link.

  6. The Culinary Chase on December 18, 2009 at 02:26

    Thanks Alessandra! When I was in the market, the woman selling the cauliflower called it Romanesco cauliflower. I checked Wikipedia & they said: Romanesco broccoli or Roman Cauliflower is an edible flower of the species Brassica oleracea and a variant form of cauliflower. Romanesco broccoli was first documented in Italy (as broccolo romanesco) in the sixteenth century. It is sometimes called broccoflower, but that name is also applied to green-curded cauliflower cultivars. It is also known as coral broccoli.

    Anyway, it was lovely in the tomato sauce. 🙂 Cheers!

  7. Jennie on December 18, 2009 at 16:37

    Wow! This looks wonderful! Beautiful photo!

  8. pierre on December 19, 2009 at 13:03

    Hi Heather
    nice try to make romanesco glamourous and the flavours of the sauce go ver well with it !! cheers from chilly Paris ! Pierre

  9. The Culinary Chase on December 19, 2009 at 13:59

    Thanks Tiny House Plans, Melanie, Jennie & Pierre. Melanie, what is TIBS? I am on twitter. 🙂 Cheer!

  10. Half Assed Kitchen on January 2, 2010 at 17:32

    Unique! This looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.