Local Ingredient: Leaf broccoli


George Bush Sr. famously admitted he did not like broccoli and declared that while he was in the White House, it would not be served, at least to him: “I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

I wonder what he would think of leaf broccoli, a relative newcomer that’s all leaf and no broccoli sprouts. With its large, dark green leaves, you might mistake leaf broccoli, or spigariello liscia, for kale. Farmer Rusty Gordon did when he first started growing it for Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury.

Now, with the name and identity straightened out, Mr. Gordon says it’s becoming popular at the farmstand: “The people that have tried it really like it.”

Cooked like other leafy greens, spigariello has a very mild — almost imperceptible — broccoli flavor, more like a hearty spinach or tender kale. “It’s sweeter than kale,” Mr. Gordon said. Some gardeners have declared it the “new kale.”

Fall is the best season to enjoy all leafy greens, including this new one. The cold weather makes them sweeter. Ghost Island Farm is known for the variety of greens grown in the fields and hoop houses all winter long. This year, it’s 15 different types of kale, along with Swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, bok choy, and now spigariello. The leaf broccoli shouldn’t be confused with broccolini, known as baby broccoli, or with broccoli raab, a deliciously spicy green with edible leaves, stalks, and florets.

Spigariello, as you might guess from its name, is popular in southern Italy, where it is has also been called covolo broccolo a getti di Napoli.

To try it, strip the green from the thick stems, cut into strips and sauté it directly in a skillet with garlic, onion, or shiitake mushrooms for a side dish, adding a little water if it sticks. It takes about four or five minutes to soften. In the pasta dish with Parmesan and garlic described here, I cooked the leaf broccoli in boiling water with the pasta after the pasta had nearly finished cooking. Then the pasta and green were drained together.

I also served the sautéed leaf broccoli and garlic with diced and roasted butternut squash on flatbread, topped with a little Mermaid Farm yogurt.

Mr. Gordon’s longtime partner Sarah Crittenden, who works at the farm and farmstand, says she loves the combination of the spigariello, cooked in butter with onions, with eggs either scrambled or poached. Some chefs top pizza with spigiarello, chili peppers, and olives. In Italy, it’s often added to soups.

The only thing you can’t do with spigariello liscia, according to Ms. Crittenden, is pronounce it easily. “This one is a lot harder to say — you have to sing it in opera,” she said. “That’s why we call it spig.”

Leaf Broccoli Pasta with Grilled Chicken, Garlic, and Olives
Serves four

Flavorful greens are a good match for plain pasta, and best of all, they can be cooked together. Add a bit of garlic, capers, and olives and you have a casual, delicious meal on the table. Don’t worry if you don’t have one of the ingredients such as capers, red pepper flakes, or olives — the dish will still be delicious.

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. capers
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch leaf broccoli greens
½ pound pasta of your choice
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, grilled and sliced, or cooked sausage, tofu, or shrimp
¼ cup pasta cooking water
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste

In a large skillet, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes, and sauté until garlic is fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the broccoli greens by rinsing, then stripping the greens from the stem. Chop or slice into bite-size pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add salt (at least 1 Tbsp. to flavor pasta). Cook the pasta, setting the timer 3 minutes before the al dente cooking time. Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the greens and continue cooking until pasta is done to your liking. Drain both, saving ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add the hot pasta, greens, and pasta water to the garlic and aromatics. Stir well. Top with the chicken, olives, and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Pass additional Parmesan at the table.