Romanesco Cauliflower with Pasta …Studies on Mandelbrot Fractals

This preparation of the small ridged rigatoni called rigatoncello is meant to feed a large group of people.  It makes for an ideal party dish.  The romanesco cauliflower used in this pasta dish is one of those marvels of nature that once could only be found in farmers markets, but now many supermarkets sell them, usually in their very young (little) form.  They’re expensive but just so appetizing looking.  They are an example of what mathematical topologists called a Mandelbrot fractal, a geometric shape made up of smaller, identical replicas of itself.  In this preparation they are boiled separately and placed on top of the pasta.  Rigatoncello is a ridged tubular pasta just a little narrower than rigatoni.

Rigatoncello with Sausages and Romanesco Cauliflower
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 10 servings
  • 3 romanesco cauliflower (about 1 pound each)
  • 1 ½ pounds mild Italian sausage
  • 1 ½ pounds hot Italian sausage
  • 4 beef marrow bones (about 1 pound) (optional)
  • ¼ pound guanciale or pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 10 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds rigatoncello or rigatoni
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 ½ cups (about 3 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat, then salt lightly, and boil the romanesco cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside, keeping them warm.
  2. In a large flame-proof casserole, cook the Italian sausages, beef marrow, and guanciale, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they’ve turn color, about 20 minutes. Cut each sausage in half. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking, stirring, until the onion is yellow, about 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato pasta and water and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sausages are very tender, about 30 minutes. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper and cook another 12 minutes. Remove whatever marrow remains in the bones and stir into the sauce. Remove and discard the marrow bones.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, salt abundantly, then cook the pasta until al dente. Drain without rinsing. Transfer the pasta to the casserole with the sausages, add the parsley and cheese, and toss well, while stirring, until all the cheese has melted. Transfer the pasta and sausages to a large platter, or two, place the romanesco cauliflowers on top, cut them into fifths, but maintaining their whole shape and serve.


Old French Recipe for Veal Rump Stew, A Cold Weather Delight

cul-de-veau-a-la-mode-du-vieux-presbytere-veal-france-3 This nineteenth-century recipe is from Anjou, the capital of which, Angers, sits in the middle of fertile land and excellent vineyards in the Loire valley. The traditional home cooking of Anjou was simple and not ostentatious. This recipe is adapted from the book Recettes des provinces de France that was produced in honor of Curnonsky, the great nineteenth-century French epicure and food writer of the Belle Époque who was an Angevin native. Curnonsky commented that “Anjou is the paradise of dining in tranquility.” I’m not sure he had this dish in mind, but it is very pleasing, velvety smooth, and perfect for a cold late fall evening. The original recipe, cul de veau à la mode du vieux presbytère, is a wonderfully quirky nineteenth-century preparation that I can’t imagine anyone making anymore in France. But I think it’s a recipe worth saving, so give it a try. The veal rump or butt—and shoulder roast can be used if your supermarket doesn’t have rump—is rubbed with curry powder and wrapped in bacon then slowly simmered for hours in Loire valley white wine and beef broth. It’s finished with mushrooms and tarragon and I suspect you will think you died and went to heaven when you taste it. As an accompaniment, you may want to try buttered egg noodles, plain rice, or parsley potatoes.

Cul de Veau à la Mode du Vieux Presbytère
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: French
Serves: 6 to 8
  • 4-pound boneless veal rump (preferably) or veal shoulder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 6 ounces smoked bacon, ¼ pound thinly sliced and 2 ounces diced
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter
  • ¼ pound cooked ham, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1¼ pound morels or small field mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  1. Rub the veal rump with salt, pepper, and half the curry powder. Wrap it up with the sliced bacon and tie off in three or four places with kitchen twine so the bacon doesn’t fall off.
  2. In a heavy, flameproof casserole, melt the butter with the diced bacon and ham over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove the bacon and ham and set aside, keeping it warm. Increase the heat to high and brown the veal on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t worry about the bottom of the casserole becoming caked because the particles will all come up when you deglaze with the liquid. Add the onion and carrot and almost all of the remaining curry powder. Sprinkle on the flour and continue cooking until the onion is golden, 2 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and beef broth, season with salt, cover, reduce the heat to very low, using a heat diffuser if necessary, and simmer until almost fork tender but needs a knife to cut a small piece, about 2 ½ to 3 hours, turning the meat occasionally.
  3. Add the reserved bacon and ham and the morels or mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of the remaining curry powder. Add the tarragon. Stir well, cover again, and cook until tender, about another 1½ hours. During the last 45 minutes of cooking, uncover, to let the liquid evaporated and become saucier.
  4. Remove the veal and discard the string and larding bacon. Transfer to a serving platter, slice, and keep warm. Mix the egg yolks with the cream and stir into the casserole off the heat. Blend the ingredients, bring to a quick boil, turn the heat off immediately and ladle the mushrooms and sauce over the veal and serve.


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