Romanesco Cauliflower in Spicy Tomato Sauce | Roman Style Cauliflower

Also called Roman cauliflower, florets of Romanesco cauliflower are simmered in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce.

Romanesco Cauliflower, Roman Cauliflower, Roman Broccoli, Italian Cauliflower Recipe

I walked into my local market this past weekend and there they were, pointy headed green globes otherwise known as Romanesco cauliflower.

This striking member of the brassica family demanded my attention; it’s was a stand-out among other vegetables both in its unique shape and coral-like texture. The light green color contrasted starkly with its paler, more common white cauliflower sibling and tempted me to grab a head for dinner.

Romanesco cauliflower, roman cauliflower, Italian cauliflower

Also called Roman cauliflower, this pretty crucifer is rather irresistible once you get to know it. Appealing in taste and appearance it can be prepared much like regular cauliflower, but its mild flavor and tender but firm texture is especially lovely simmered in a bright and bold tomato sauce.

Romanesco Cauliflower, Roman Cauliflower, Roman Broccoli, Italian Cauliflower Recipe, Romanesco

Spicy, sweet and savory all at once roman cauliflower in spicy tomato sauce is a hearty winter dish with steeped in the traditions of Italy and the Mediterranean.

romanesco cauliflower, roman cauliflower, Italian cauliflower

The tightly packed light green florets are quickly dunked in boiling water for a few minutes then hit the pan for a short bath in an easy tomato sauce filled with garlic, bits of salty olives and plump raisins.

A pinch of red pepper supplies the necessary heat that pulls the sweet and salty flavors into line then water and wine join the party and the whole thing is left to mingle for 10 minutes. Bubbling around and about the sauce infuses each silky floret.

Romanesco cauliflower, roman cauliflower, Italian cauliflower

Once tender and yielding the dish is finished off with toasty pine nuts and a few fresh snippets of parsley. I’d also suggest a grating of Pecorino cheese to accompany it if you are so inclined.

Serves Serves 4

Romanesco Cauliflower in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe

Spicy, sweet and savory all at once roman cauliflower in spicy tomato sauce is a hearty winter dish with an Italian heritage.

20 minPrep Time

20 minCook Time

Save Recipe


  • 1 medium head of Romanesco or regular cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 Tablespoons/28g of butter or olive oil
  • Two small garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/8th to 1/4 teaspoon depending on how hot you like it)
  • Sea salt
  • 3 Tablespoons/60g concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons/15g raisins
  • 1/4 cup/40g black olives, chopped
  • 3/4 cup /180ml cup water
  • ¼ cup/60ml dry white wine (for alcohol-free version substitute 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar and 2 Tablespoons water for the wine)
  • ¼ cup/30g pine nuts, toasted (toast them in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a wide sauté pan warm the butter over a medium-low heat. Add the chopped garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Sauté 1 minute until garlic is fragrant but not browned.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, raisins, olives water and wine. Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low, add the blanched cauliflower and simmer covered for 10 minutes.
  5. Top with parsley and pine nuts. Serve with Pecorino cheese if desired.


Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Vegetarian, Paleo, For Vegan substitute olive oil for butter and omit Pecorino.


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  1. says

    I spotted some Romanesco cauliflower in the store the other day grabbed a head just because it was just so beautiful. I love your recipe and am going to have to give this whirl.

  2. says

    Oh how I love romanesco cauliflower! I still remembered how obsessed I was when I first saw it – a fractal vegetable 🙂 Wish it stayed as vividly green after cooking as when it’s raw. The flavours in this dish are juist heavenly (and I have major plate envy!)

  3. says

    What a marvelous way to enjoy romanesco, Sylvie! Whenever I pick one up at the market I tend to roast it in the oven…time to get more creative and try your spicy tomato sauce. Love the raisins and olives in it, too. Romanesco is truly stunning and unique (as evidenced by your beautiful photos) and my kids think it looks like it’s from outer-space!

  4. says

    These photographs are STUNNING. In particular, the last shot, with the bright green tops and the dark undersides of the romanesco cauliflower…I’m flabbergasted, amazed, in awe…

    And it sounds pretty darn delicious too!

  5. says

    Such a stunning photo of head of cauliflower…all the details of the florets are incredibly beautiful. And the color is amazing. A spicy cauliflower dish sounds like the perfect side dish! Brava!

  6. says

    Yum. I’m crazy in love with cauliflower… but I have yet to try the “spiky” variety. I love this recipe, kind of reminds me of cry cauliflower curries with the intense flavors. I’ll definitely have to give it a go!

  7. says

    Oh how I love romanesco cauliflower. Whenever I find it in the market (which is not so often) it’s such a treat. This spicy tomato sauce sounds so wonderful. I’ve been on a real olive kick lately. I just can’t resist the salty, savory goodness. I may have to settle for making this with regular cauliflower, but I’m sure it will be a fantastic dish all the same!

  8. says

    So beautiful! These are fairly common in my market but I have never bought and cooked one. I love this sweet, savory and spicy sauce for a vegetable like this. Perfect and creative!

  9. says

    I like this close up shot of the whole romanesco. Beautiful color and texture. Not tasted yet, but I’m a fan of cauliflower, so I assume I’d like it too.

  10. Stacy says

    Tried this recipe and it is FABULOUS!
    This is one of the prettiest vegetables and no one ever knows what to do with it…I will pass this recipe on!

  11. says

    This is really stunning! Romanesco has always intrigued me with its incredible chartreuse color – like a freak of nature – and almost gothic architectural shape. Your photographs do it dramatic justice.

  12. says

    I’m a new follower, and my oh my, all of your recipes are making me hungry! Can’t wait to try some of the out…just have to decide which one to make first!

  13. Shelley says

    I got waylaid by the wonderful pictures of the Romanesque cauliflower, but I must say I love your site! Thank you!

  14. Shelley says

    We lived in Rome years ago and I bought and prepared these cauliflower. I have never seen them since. Thanks for the memory!