Spaghetti with Romanesco, Dried Shrimp, Chilli and Spices

I have been cooking, on an almost daily basis for many years. And most of the time I cook with what’s in my fridge and pantry, because I like to create something delicious from what’s there, rather than running to the shop for that one ingredient that I’ve run out of.

So after bringing home some lovely fresh romanesco from the markets recently, and deciding it would be perfect with pasta, I discovered I’d run out of anchovies (a classic partner) so out came dried shrimp, coriander and fennel seed. The combination was terrific, and we’ve eaten it several times making the most of this glorious vegetable while it’s still available.

And if you’ve never seen romanesco, it’s part of the brassica family (other members include cabbage, kale and cauliflower) and has a flavour similar to broccoli. Its intricate, mathematical pattern makes it a fractal (like snowflakes) and it varies in colour from vibrant green to deep purple, and has an almost prehistoric appearance. Fascinates small children, one I know asked if it was Lego!

So, if you can’t find romanesco, use broccoli, or cauliflower. And with this recipe, use anchovies if the idea of dried shrimp doesn’t appeal. All that matters is that the end result is delicious, and gives you a great deal of pleasure.

Serves 2-3

  • 200g spaghetti
  • 300g romanesco or broccoli
  • 10-12g dried shrimp or 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2tsp each coriander and fennel seed
  • 1 small hot red chilli, seeds removed and finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, green germ removed, finely sliced
  • Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • Parmesan to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, cut romanesco into florets, wash and set aside.

In a small fry pan over a low heat toast dried shrimp until crispy, without burning. Place on a chopping board with the garlic and chilli, and chop all into small pieces immediately.

Toast coriander and fennel seed in the same pan until aromatic, tip into a mortar and pestle, and roughly crush.

When water is boiling, throw in spaghetti, and stir well.

Heat a large pan with a lid over medium heat and pour in a generous slurp of olive oil, about 2tbsp. Toss in romanesco, shrimp, chilli, garlic and spices, coat well in the olive oil and put the lid on for 3-5 minutes, stirring once.

Once spaghetti is al dente, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water.

Tip spaghetti into the pan with romanesco, and add cooking water. Cook for a minute or two longer, and add another slurp of olive oil if necessary. Season generously with black pepper, add parsley, a decent squeeze of lemon and serve with grated parmesan.