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A Creamy Pasta Dish from Under the Tuscan Sun

Frances Mayes, best-selling author of "Under the Tuscan Sun," shares a recipe inspired by the ingredients of her region.

By Frances Mayes

10:21 AM EST on November 6, 2023

Cavatelli with Broccoli Romano in Creamy Parmigiano Sauce.

Cavatelli with Broccoli Romano in Creamy Parmigiano Sauce.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We are thrilled to have best-selling author Frances Mayes ("Under the Tuscan Sun" and many more) contribute food writing to Appetito. The recipes shared are from her cookbook, Pasta Veloce, which was inspired by, well, her experiences under the Tuscan sun, including the production of her very own olive oil, Bramasole, from the eponymous estate where she lives half of the year with her husband, Edward, a poet and olive farmer.

Florets of chartreuse Romano, sometimes called “broccoli Romanesco,” resemble little forest trees in a fairy tale. The whorls branch out in a spiraling Fibonacci pattern. A relative of broccoli and cauliflower, broccoli Romano tastes like a combination of both. The sauce adheres well to the spirals of cavatelli, corkscrews. Regular broccoli will work as well if the Romano is out of season.

Cavatelli with Broccoli Romano in Creamy Parmigiano Sauce

Cavatelli with Broccoli Romano in Creamy Parmigiano Sauce

Recipe by Frances Mayes
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Prep time


Cooking time




  • 8 ounces 8 cavatelli

  • 1 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 3 garlic cloves, slivered

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 extra virgin olive oil

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 head 1 broccoli Romano, about 12 ounces, divided into florets

  • 1 cup 1 heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons 2 fresh lemon juice

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 grated Pecorino Romano


  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes.
  • Scoop out and reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the onion is softened and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. 
  • Steam the broccoli Romano until it is tender enough for a fork to pierce it with a little resistance, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Reserve a handful of florets for garnishing the plates. 
  • In a food processor, combine the remaining florets with the sautéed onion and garlic.
  • Add the cream and lemon juice.
  • Puree until smooth, adding as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create a thick, creamy sauce.
  • Scrape the sauce back into the skillet, add the drained pasta, and toss to coat.
  • Reheat over medium heat, tossing, until hot.
  • Divide among bowls or plates.
  • Top with the reserved florets and a generous sprinkling of Pecorino.

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