Roman Style Broccoli Sauté

Attention broccoli lovers: You might be missing the most enjoyable parts of your favorite vegetable.

lemon, broccoli, chili flakes, garlic on cutting board with knife

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man holding bushel of broccoli
Jesse from Blue House Farms with broccoli at Upper Haight Farmers’ Market in San Francisco.
Photo by Anna Buss

Often when people are preparing broccoli, they think that the only usable part is the floret. But surprisingly enough, the stem and the leaves offer a depth of texture and flavor that you don’t want to miss out on.

For the freshest broccoli, choose those with long stems and leaves. We were won over by the beautiful broccoli from Blue House Farms at Upper Haight Farmers’ Market in San Francisco. Enjoy this simple recipe!

Roman Style Broccoli Sauté
(Serves 4-6)
sauteed broccoli on platter


  • 1 head broccoli
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled*
  • Zest and juice from ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Starting from the base of the stem, use a paring knife to peel away the fibrous exterior. Keep the broccoli leaves for sauté. Remove the stem from the broccoli head and cut it into batons (long, thin rectangular shapes). Slice the florets in half. Set broccoli pieces aside.
  2. Smash garlic cloves and place in cold sauté pan, add pinch of salt and olive oil. (Smashing the garlic and adding salt helps to break down the enzymatic wall which will encourage the release of flavor into the oil.) Bring pan to medium-high heat. When the oil starts to bubble, add broccoli and pinch of salt. Move broccoli around pan several times and then let sit, allowing broccoli to caramelize.
  3. While broccoli is caramelizing, zest one lemon. Add splash of lemon juice to deglaze sauté pan. As steam rises, drag spoon across pan picking up broccoli and all fond (little brown bits at the bottom of the pan). Add zest and chili flakes, stir, and remove pan from heat.
  4. To serve, lay broccoli on plate and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

*Leaving the skin on the cloves helps to prevent the garlic from burning. The dish can be plated with or without the garlic.

Recipe created by Mario Hernandez, program coordinator and market chef for Cookin’ the Market

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