This roasted broccoli with walnuts, raisins, and ricotta salata will likely steal the spotlight at your dinner table. It’s sufficiently impressive to stand in as the main course though it’s equally adept at playing second fiddle.
Broccoli rarely gets to play main course, but I’ve always found it hearty enough to do so. It just needs a little something extra—not much, though—to make it feel like more than a side dish. Let’s be honest—cheese always helps. Here, crumbly ricotta salata is the base for a salsa of sorts that’s generously spooned over thick, steak-like pieces of roasted broccoli. Added to the cheese are vinegar-soaked raisins, toasted walnuts, herbs, garlic, and red pepper flakes. The result is something that’s salty, tangy, sweet, savory, and spicy all at the same time, forcing your taste buds to try to keep up.–Sheela Prakash
☞ Table of Contents
*What is Ricotta Salata?
Imagine if you pressed salted, dried ricotta cheese until it was firm enough to grate or crumble. Sounds sorta incredible, right? That’s ricotta salata. Milder than feta, it’s similar to cojita or paneer and makes all the difference in salads, tacos, scrambled eggs, or anywhere you want a salty and creamy hit.
Roasted Broccoli With Walnuts, Raisins, and Ricotta Salata
- 2 heads (1 lb) broccoli
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped
- 3 ounces ricotta salata or feta cheese crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 small garlic clove grated or minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Trim and discard about 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the bottom of the broccoli stems. Use a vegetable peeler to peel away the tough, fibrous skin on the outside of the stems to reveal the pale, green flesh. Halve each broccoli head from the stem end lengthwise to get 4 halves and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil and gently toss to coat, rubbing the oil onto the stems. Lightly season all over with salt and pepper.
- Place the halves, cut-side down, on the baking sheet and roast until browned and caramelized underneath, 15 to 18 minutes. Flip the broccoli and continue to roast until tender, 5 to 15 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and raisins and let rest until the raisins are plumped and softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the walnuts, ricotta salata or feta, parsley, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Mix well.
- Arrange the roasted broccoli on a platter or individual plates. Spoon the walnut-raisin mixture generously over the top and serve.
☞TESTER TIP: You may not need all the walnut-raisin mixture, but that’s hardly a problem as it willl keep for a few days in the fridge. Stir it into pasta, spoon it over grilled chicken or steak, scoop it up with pita chips, or sprinkle it on other roasted vegetables or salads.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe could be a main course or a delicious side. The salsa was tasty and could be used with other vegetables, on chicken or fish, or just on a cracker. While my family likes veggies, I knew they would not love this for a main dish so I served it as a side with grilled salmon.
The salsa was so flavorful, salty, and savory, and the raisins gave a nice hint of sweet but it was a little dry. I think more of the vinegar and oil to moisten the other ingredients would be helpful. It was tricky to get a bite with the broccoli and salsa as the salsa didn’t really stay on the stalks. If I make this again I’d cut the broccoli in bite size pieces before roasting.
We put the extra salsa on our salmon and it was delicious. I will be making this again soon.
The flavorful profile of this dish reminded me of a roasted cauliflower I enjoyed in an Italian restaurant that featured some vinegar and currants. The vinegar, the sweet raisins, and the different textures made this broccoli dish memorable in the same way.
It’s also just a simple recipe to fix without a lot of fuss that can go with a variety of entrees (I served with pasta, but I could see this with fish, chicken and steak as well). I agree there is extra “salsa” mix, but it isn’t a problem.
Roasted broccoli is always delicious. But what makes this truly outstanding is the salsa. A salty, sweet, crunchy, creamy mixture that makes the roasted broccoli sing! I’m talking an aria. I roast broccoli all the time, and I love it that way. But WOW! This salsa makes this dish come to life and dance around your palate. It’s complex and delicious.
So, down to business now. This recipe will definitely serve four as a side. I’m not certain it would serve four as a main. In my case it would serve one, but I digress. I followed the recipe as written, except that I lined the sheet with foil; I would recommend this. For the salsa, I had very large raisins, so I very coarsely chopped them, then added the vinegar and let them rest.
Perhaps bleu cheese might also be good, but these are all just possibilities, as it is truly eat-with-a-spoon-right-out-of-the-bowl delicious. I will make this at least once a week!
I served this for lunch for 3 people (no leftovers!). It’s a tasty, healthy dish, and we really loved the combination of broccoli, raisins, nuts, ricotta salata, and the slightest hint of vinegar.
It was easy to prepare, and a nice change from the usual broccoli combinations. Roasting the broccoli gives it a wonderful depth of flavor, especially with the browned edges and caramelized bottoms. I roast broccoli often, so we know how tasty that is, but adding this salsa creates a really nice change, and does make it seem more substantial. We had this for lunch, but I would also add a serving of rice and make this as a dinner.
I only cooked the broccoli on the first side for 20 minutes, until the bottom became caramelized and browned, and the second side cooked for about 12 minutes. I rely heavily on visual and tactile cues. I misread the instructions on cutting the broccoli heads, so instead of cutting the heads into only 4 pieces, I separated it into more separate sections, so I ended up with a few more pieces. This is probably the reason mine cooked a little faster.
I made the salsa while the broccoli was cooking. Once the salsa ingredients were combined, I left the entire mixture to sit until the broccoli was finished cooking.
I crumbled all the ricotta salata called for in the recipe, but once I started to scatter it over the broccoli, I felt it had enough without using all of it. I didn’t want the cheese to overpower the broccoli and raisins, so I served the small amount that I didn’t use on top of the dish on the side. I didn’t add more cheese on top of my serving–to me, the stars of the dish are broccoli and salsa combination with the ricotta salata as a complement. The dish becomes muddled with too much cheese. I think it’s perfect with only about 1/2 to 2/3 of the cheese called for, but others in my family did add the rest to their broccoli, so it’s just a matter of personal taste.
I added all the raisin salsa and would recommend adding all of it (recipe notes what to do with leftovers but I think the dish needs all of it). The raisins are perfectly tender and plump after sitting for only a few minutes, and really complement the broccoli. What a combination! Caramelized broccoli, plump raisins, sherry vinegar, garlic, parsley, a little spice, the deep flavor of a roasted walnut, and a touch of cool ricotta salata for a little saltiness– so good! I will probably try this raisin salsa on roasted cauliflower that I make often, and maybe sub-out the walnuts with pine nuts. This dish transports me to Southern Italy with the raisin mixture.
Taking broccoli into savory warm salad territory is a brilliant choice—and the depth of flavor you get with roasting combined with the salsa combination is spot on for a satisfying meal. The walnuts contribute not just a healthy note but also a varied texture, and they work so well with the sweet and sour aspect of the soaked raisins. The ricotta salata ties it together while retaining the individual elements.
I have tried pine nuts with broccoli as well as almonds, but this had a much more interesting result. I am sure good pecans would work. If your walnuts need toasting, do that first while the oven is preheating. I threw caution to the wind and popped in a tray at the full heat but watched them like a hawk and removed them at 5 to 6 minutes.
Perfect meatless feast for carnivores and vegetarians alike, the caramelized edges are just right. If this was to be a main course, it would be perfect for 2 people, although as a side dish it can serve more. But it was too delicious for any leftovers for us and we made it the meal.
A usable amount of the walnut-raisin salsa was leftover (1/3 to 1/2 cup), which was nice alongside some charcuterie and with some sourdough. The firmness of the cheese is useful—if you used a creamy cheese, like chèvre or overly moist feta, it would tend to break down into a creamy dressing. I don’t use ricotta salata very often, but it was especially well-suited to this. In a pinch, you might suggest queso fresco as a good crumbly alternative.
Although this has healthy ingredients and is a great meatless entrée, it’s not self-consciously so, which I find appealing, and stands well on its own as a recipe of merit, not just a meat-free stand-in.
Originally published February 15, 2021