Mystery Solved: Romanesco Cauliflower

The mystery vegetable has been identified:  Romanesco Cauliflower!

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower


If you ever come across one of these beautiful, unique examples of nature, you will now know what to call it.  One reader actually did name it accurately, (she knows who she is!), so she must be a lover of beauty, nature, food or all three!  The Romanesco Cauliflower is an example of a fractal form in nature. You might know the definition of a fractal but I had never heard of it—something that is fractal shows a repeating pattern of similarity and when you zoom in, nothing changes and the pattern reappears over and over again.  In math and art, this is well-known terminology, I think, but in cauliflowers, not so much.

This visually striking, natural marvel is lime green in color and has been around since the 16th century in Italy.  The Romanesco has a nuttier taste than the cauliflower and tastes better raw than a cauliflower.  It reminds me of a microscopic photo of a snowflake or looking through a kaleidoscope or an infinity mirror.  Thanks to my husband for spotting it at the farmer’s market. It’s such a pretty sight to behold, it needs a more exciting fate than just the usual steaming, boiling or roasting.  This simple recipe adapted from Mario Batali enhances its taste and allows the optical illusions of its form to remain for all to behold!



Adapted from Mario Batali


1 large or 2 medium heads (about 2 pounds) romanesco cauliflower

1 cup brine-cured green olives, pitted

3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes

Kosher or sea salt

10 garlic cloves



1) Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water. Cut the romanesco into small florets, submerge them in the ice water, and set aside to soak for 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, combine the olives, capers, parsley and lemon zest on a chopping board, and chop together until minced.

3) In a small pot, heat the 1/3 cup oil and the red pepper flakes over medium-low heat until hot.

4) Remove from the heat, and stir in the olive mixture, 1 teaspoon salt, and the lemon juice. Set aside.

5) Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

6) Drain the romanesco from its ice bath, drop it into the boiling water, and add the garlic cloves.

7) Cook until the florets are just tender, 5 minutes. Drain well, and separate out the garlic cloves.

8) Add the cooked garlic cloves to the olive-caper dressing.

9) Place the dressing in a large bowl, add the romanesco, and toss well.

Romanesco Alla Diavolo

Romanesco Alla Diavolo

10) Taste, and add more salt, red pepper flakes, and/or lemon juice as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with the remaining olive oil. (If serving at room temperature, adjust the seasoning again before drizzling with oil.)


xox Ellen

Leaning Into Veganism



  1. The fractal form reminds me of the Fibonacci Principle. You will have to google that one to see what I mean! This recipe looks delicious and the photo is exquisite!!!! So glad the mystery was solved. Look how much we’re learning with this blog!!!

  2. I thought the vegetable looked like a fractal and a quick google search turned this up. So cool.

    • You identified this vegetable as a fractal by yourself just by looking at the photo? Wow! Emory is doing a great job with your education! I never even heard of a fractal before this post, however, I am familiar with the Fibonacci Principle.

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