jamie oliver greens mac 'n' cheese with Romanesco!

Serendipity threw us this food combination with a chance PBS viewing of Jamie Oliver's take on healthier mac 'n' cheese a few days after a rare find of Romanesco broccoli/cauliflower at Whole Foods. Jamie used some kind of broccolini (like baby broccoli on a stalk) but since Romanesco is such a delight in pasta sauces, literally melting into the pasta sauce, we just had to modify the recipe to give this a try. We basically just switched out the two veggies for the Romanesco and replaced the thyme by nutmeg since the head chef objected to that Simon and Garfunkel spice (I had thought only rosemary was on the black list from that song title, but there is always things to learn about a partner during a lifetime relationship). Another consideration was the mother-in-law missing lower dentures while waiting many months for a replacement, requiring soft food yet again. So we also lost the bread crumb crust this time.

Like our frequent Romanesco pasta recipe, we boiled the Romanesco with the pasta, elbow macaroni of course as tradition demands. Jamie is a Brit so he uses those smart non-USA units and a slightly different food vocabulary, but he has a social conscience and has tried his best to help school kids eat healthier meals in the UK. His US campaign to help unhealthy communities never got much traction. We loved this recipe. Hope you will too.


1 large leek
3 cloves of garlic
400 g (almost 1 lb) purple sprouting or tenderstem broccoli (UK speak)
   (he means broccolini, but we used one big head of Romanesco cauliflower)
40 g (3 T) unsalted butter
1/2  a bunch (15g?) of fresh thyme (we used some dried nutmeg)
2 T plain flour
1 litre semi-skimmed milk (that's about 1 qt over here)
450 g (1 lb) dried macaroni
30 g (3/4 c) Parmesan cheese
150 g (8 oz) mature Cheddar cheese
100 g (3.5 oz) baby spinach (we skipped this because of the Romanesco)
50 g (1.75 oz) flaked almonds (we skipped this for Isgouhi's dental situation)


  1. Prep the leek (trim, halve, clean and chop finely) and garlic (peel and slice, or just press as we did) and the Romanesco cauliflower (or the broccolini and spinach if you stick with Jamie: slice the stalk finely, reserve the florets for later),. Cut the Romanesco florets into small pieces. Grate the cheeses so they are ready to go when needed.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F.
  3. Saute' the leek and garlic (and broccolini stalks if you go that route, with the thyme leaves) in the butter for about 15 minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the flour and slowly add the milk to make a bechamel sauce, simmering 10 minutes or until thickened, continuing to stir.
  5. Dump in the cheese (reserve some cheddar for the topping) while continuing to stir until you have a nice cheesy sauce. If you are following Jamie, he says now blend this sauce with the spinach in a blender for a nice green color. Season with salt and pepper to taste. We should have done this just for the color.
  6. Meanwhile boil the Romanesco in salted water at least 5 minutes before adding in the macaroni and boil until the pasta is cooked. No need to worry about al dente considerations here, this is a US dish where we are allowed to overcook the macaroni. For the original recipe, cook the macaroni as directed. Jamie recommends 5 minutes boiling since this will cook in the oven anyway.
  7. Stir the sauce into the drained pasta (and broccoli florets in Jamie's version) and pour into a 14x10 inch (35x25 cm in the rest of the world) baking dish.
  8. Top off with the remaining cheddar (we used additional parmesan) and sprinkle almonds evenly over the cheese.
  9. Bake 30 minutes until bubbly and golden.
  10. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.


  1. Our favorite pasta recipe: romanesco cauliflower pasta (broccoletti romani).
  2. Another variation: rigatoni with broccoli romanesco.
  3. And yet another with zucchini flowers: pesto pasta with zucchini flowers and Romanesco cauliflower.
  4. We are a bit confused about broccoli and cauliflower in this veggie terminology, no?
  5. Jamie Oliver's original recipe: greens mac 'n' cheese.
  6. Illustrations available.
greensmacncheese.htm: 4-feb-2020 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]