A glorious vegan/vegetarian dinner centrepiece. A whole romanesco is seasoned with fragrant za’atar and roasted till tender and delicious.
Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. That’s certainly the case with this extremely simple but utterly delicious whole roasted romanesco with za’atar. Four ingredients and minimal effort yield mega results.
I bought this beautiful fractal vegetable on the market. I’d only stopped to get some oranges but couldn’t resist its gorgeous green allure. Romanesco is such a fantastic vegetable because not only does it look amazing, it also has a delicious flavour.
What is a romanesco?
The romanesco is often referred to as a cauliflower but is actually a different vegetable altogether. It belongs to the brassica family of vegetables, which includes cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts etc. They are all cultivars of the same species – Brassica oleracea – which have been differentiated by centuries of selective breeding. Romanesco is unique in its bright green colour and funky fractal shape.
Romanesco has a wonderful nutty flavour that’s reminiscent of both cauliflower and broccoli while still maintaining its own unique identity. You can cook it just as you would either cauliflower or broccoli. I decided to roast it whole for maximum wow factor.
How to wash a romanesco cauliflower
I find the best way to wash romanesco, cauliflower, broccoli, and other similar vegetables, is to soak them in slightly acidified water. Here’s what I do:
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and add a good splash of white vinegar.
- Immerse a colander in the water.
- Remove any leaves from the romanesco/cauliflower/broccoli and then place it in the colander in the water – press down until bubbles have stopped rising and the vegetable is submerged. You can also put a plate on top to hold the vegetable pieces in the water if required.
- Leave the romanesco or other vegetable to soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Pick up the colander and your romanesco will be lifted out of the water – hold it over the bowl to catch the drips as it drains.
- Set the veg aside and inspect the water – is anything with legs floating on the surface? If so, pour the water away and repeat!
- When the water is free of bugs, rinse off the vinegary residue and your veg is ready to cook.
You can also use this method for leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and cabbage, too.
I have a fabulous salad spinner that includes a colander basket inside a large bowl, that does the job perfectly. If you’re using a lot of leafy veg then it’s well worth investing in one.
What a whopper!
Anyway, back to my glorious romanesco. I hadn’t appreciated when I bought it just what a whopper it was, and the dish I was planning to put it in was way to small! I ended up using a kadai (like a small wok) instead.
The whole romanesco roasted for about an hour and a half before it was fully cooked. But it was IMMENSE. A more normal sized whole romanesco or cauliflower should cook through in 60-80 minutes. Keep checking with a sharp knife if in doubt.
Ingredients for roasted romanesco with za’atar
I really love recipes that deliver fantastic results from just a handful of ingredients, and this roasted romanesco is just such a recipe! To make it, all you will need is:
- Romanesco (of course!) – or use a whole cauliflower
- Olive oil
- Za’atar – see below for more details
- Garlic powder – optional, but I love garlic with everything!
Four ingredients, and you are rewarded with a beautiful and delicious dish.
The za’atar that I used to season this whole romanesco came back from the Levinsky market on our most recent trip to Israel. Popular across the Middle East, za’atar is both the name of this delicious herb/spice blend, and also, confusingly, the name of its main component, known in English as hyssop. If you can’t find a za’atar blend locally, you can make something similar yourself. Simply mix oregano and thyme (which are both related to hyssop) and add a little salt, sumac and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Or just use oregano and thyme. It will still be delicious!
Roasted romanesco – main dish or side
We ate this as our main dish, with couscous and some grated cheese on top. It was a delicious and satisfying vegetarian dinner. However it would also make a tasty and impressive side dish alongside all sorts of other things.
Recycled roasted romanesco
If further proof of our romanesco’s huge size was needed, we only managed to eat about ⅔ of it between us – we would normally polish off a whole cauliflower with no problem. On the plus side, this meant that the remainder could be recycled into a pasta bake the following night with the addition of some tuna, sliced olives, and tomato sauce. Yum again.
Want deliciously easy, family-friendly recipes like this one delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up. (Of course, I’ll never pass on your email address to anyone.)
Whole Roasted Romanesco with Za’atar
- 1 large romanesco (or cauliflower)
- 6 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 teaspoon za’atar (see note)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Remove the outer leaves from the romanesco and wash thoroughly. Place the whole romanesco stem down in a large oven-proof dish.
- Whisk together the olive oil, za’atar and garlic powder (if using). Pour and brush this mixture over the romanesco, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies.
- Cover loosely with foil, then roast at 180°C (350°F) for 50-60 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook for a further 20-30 minutes until the romanesco is tender when tested with the point of a knife.
- Serve hot.
More romanesco recipes
If you’re after more inspiration for cooking romanesco, how about
- Romanesco with rosemary-garlic crumbs from Family Friends Food
- Roasted mini romanesque cauliflower with dukkah yogurt dip from Travels for Taste
- Easy romanesco pasta with lemon & garlic from Tin and Thyme
- Romanesco, lemon and cardamom cookies from Veggie Desserts
I’m linking up with Cook Once Eat Twice hosted by Searching for Spice, since this roasted romanesco was recycled into a pasta bake; and the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary for the same reason.
Killer. I’ve never heard of zatar, but used your guidance. Took the mortar and pestle to some oregano, thyme, and sesame seeds. Added garlic powder, olive oil, and brushed it all on. Salted the top and roasted. SO good, the whole family ate it up. Where’s my leftovers?
Great! So glad you all enjoyed it ?
What a gorgeous sounding recipe! I have za’atar in my cupboard so I know what I’m doing the next time a romanesco appears in my veg box! Thank you for sharing with the no waste food challenge 🙂
Thanks Elizabeth. And thanks for organising the no waste food challenge ?
Sarah James @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed
I love Romanesco, we grew some last year but they didn’t grow as big as your beauty form the market. A great idea to roast it especially with the herb spice blend and I can’t wait for our crop to grow this year so I can try it.
I never thought of that, but it DOES look like a Christmas tree! And thank you!
Kirsty Hijacked By Twins
I love romanesco and definitely want to try it roasted next time I have some! Thank you for sharing with #CookBlogShare x
Thanks Kirsty. I love roasting vegetables – it really concentrates the delicious flavours, and it works so well with this romanesco.
I also bought a romanesco last weekend and I love the sound of this recipe. I’ve run out of za’atar and am really missing it!
They’re irresistible, aren’t they?! You can get za’atar from a few different places including Steenbergs and even Amazon
I’m obsessed with za’atar- love it on everything!
I’ve never cooked romanesco but I had it pureed at River Cottage and it was wonderful. I may try and grow some!
Za’atar is certainly versatile and delicious. Let me know how you go on growing romanesco – whenever I’ve tried to grow anything brassica, it’s been eaten by caterpillars before we even got a taste!
I must admit I have never eaten romanesco but it’s such a striking vegetable! Very curious as to the taste will have to seek it out. Roasting it whole sounds like a great way to serve it!
The taste is something a bit like cauliflower, and a bit like broccoli, and a bit different from either! It’s slightly nutty and very delicious. Roasting it whole is a)easy and b)looks impressive, so just my sort of recipe 🙂
Wow, this looks so pretty and so delicious. I have never had a Romanesco before so am intrigued as to the flavour!
Thanks Camilla, the flavour is something like a cauliflower and something like a broccoli, but a little bit different from both. You should try one!
Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche
Oh how pretty is this! I love how the ends of the spikes get slightly charred, I bet that has a beautiful flavour. Romanesco is just gorgeous!
Thanks Becca. It was super delicious, and those charred points were some of the best bits 🙂