Whole roast romanesco with za’atar

Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective, and that’s certainly the case with this extremely simple roasted romanesco with za’atar. Four ingredients, minimal effort, 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. The romanesco is often referred to as a cauliflower but is actually a different vegetable altogether, and it has a wonderful nutty flavour that’s reminiscent of both cauliflower and broccoli while still maintaining its own unique identity. Yum.


You can cook it just as you would either cauliflower or broccoli too, so I decided to roast it whole for maximum wow factor. First of all I had to remove the leaves and clean it thoroughly. I find the best way to wash these kinds of 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/cauli/broccoli and then place it in the colander in the water – press down until bubbles have stopped rising and the vegetable is submerged. Leave to soak for 5-10 minutes. Now pick up the colander and your vegetable 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! If not, rinse off the vinegary water and you’re done, and your veg is ready to cook 🙂

You can also use this method for leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage, too. 

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 karahi pan (like a small wok) instead. It roasted for about an hour and a half, and to be honest, the centre could have stood a bit longer without problems. But it was IMMENSE. A more normal sized romanesco/cauliflower should cook through in 60-80 minutes. Keep checking with a sharp knife if in doubt.

A glorious vegan/vegetarian dinner centrepiece, beautiful fractal romanesco is seasoned with fragrant za'atar & roasted whole till tender and delicious.

The za’atar 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 by mixing oregano and thyme (which are both related to hyssop) and adding a little salt and sumac and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Or just use oregano and thyme. It will still be delicious!

We ate this as our main dish, with couscous and some grated hard cheese on top. It was a delicious and satisfying vegetarian dinner. However, as if further proof of the romanesco’s huge size was needed, we only  managed to eat about 2/3 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.

Serves 4-6. 

A glorious vegan/vegetarian dinner centrepiece, beautiful fractal romanesco is seasoned with fragrant za'atar & roasted whole till tender and delicious.

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5 from 4 votes

Whole Roasted Romanesco with Za'atar

Roast a whole romanesco or cauliflower with olive oil and deliciously fragrant za'atar
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Author Helen


  • 1 large romanesco (or cauliflower)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp za'atar (hyssop)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
  • Remove the outer leaves from the romanesco and wash thoroughly. Place 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 180C 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.


Cauliflower can be substituted for the romanesco and will also be delicious!
You can also substitute a mixture of oregano & thyme for the za'atar. (Sesame seeds and a little sumac are optional.)

For more romanesco inspiration, take a look at this roasted mini romanesque cauliflower with dukkah yogurt dip from Travels for Taste, this easy romanesco pasta with lemon & garlic from Tin and Thyme, or these romanesco, lemon and cardamom cookies from Veggie Desserts.

I’m linking up with CookBlogShare which is hosted by HijackedByTwins; 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.



  1. Pingback:Homemade Za'atar (and Recipes for Using It!) | Our Salty Kitchen

  2. 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?

  3. 5 stars
    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 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    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.

  5. 5 stars
    I never thought of that, but it DOES look like a Christmas tree! And thank you!

  6. I love romanesco and definitely want to try it roasted next time I have some! Thank you for sharing with #CookBlogShare x

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 5 stars
    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!

  11. 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!

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