February 12, 2024 6:00 pm • Last Updated: February 09, 2024 2:21 pm
Whenever there are random bits of crisped cheese on a baking dish or sheet pan, chances are you’ll find me hovering over it, cleaning it of unnecessarily crisp bits. I can’t get enough of them, so I’ve found this recipe – which provides the whole pan full – very appealing. In it, mounds of grated Parmesan cheese are baked to crisp golden discs beneath tender, lightly crumbled broccoli florets. The cheese serves as a delicious platform for each piece of broccoli, remaining slightly pliable where it touches the vegetable, and forming a deep brown, crunchy matrix around it.
The Parmesan layer is essentially a type of Italian fricco, usually served as an appetizer or snack, where grated cheese is slow-cooked or pan-fried until they become cracker-like. After watching many social media videos using frico as a base layer for various vegetables, such as potatoes, sliced squash or Brussels sprouts, I couldn’t resist giving it a spin with broccoli. As you can see from this recipe, it’s a simple way to elevate a vegetable into a wow-inspiring side dish.
Broccoli is first blanched until it is just tender but still bright green, which takes a few minutes. It is then patted dry – an important step so excess moisture does not interfere with the cheese’s later crisping. You can cook the broccoli ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but in that case I recommend submerging it in an ice bath after draining to stop it from cooking. You can also substitute frozen, thawed broccoli florets, or use a different vegetable like cauliflower.
Then you place small mounds of grated Parmesan cheese on a parchment-lined sheet pan, place a piece of broccoli on top of each one, and use the bottom of a glass to break up the broccoli a bit, flattening it a bit on the cheese. After a sprinkling of olive oil, and garlic powder and pepper, it goes into the oven. (No salt is necessary because the cheese adds enough salt.)
After about 8 minutes the cheese is brown and crisp, like a halo around each broccoli floret. A 10-minute rest in the pan makes it extra crispy and makes it easier to lift each one out of the pan with a spatula. It’s a side dish that goes well with almost any roasted protein, and is a treasure for crispy cheese lovers—providing plenty of crunchy, golden, deliciousness for everyone at the table.
Crispy Parmesan Smashed Broccoli
Here, mounds of grated Parmesan cheese are baked to form crisp golden discs beneath tender, lightly broken broccoli florets. The cheese serves as a delicious platform for each piece of broccoli, remaining slightly pliable where it touches the vegetable, and forming a deep brown, crunchy matrix around it. Here’s a simple way to elevate broccoli into a wow-inspiring side dish.
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: 35 minutes.
Storage: Broccoli-parm slices served hot; They do not freeze well.
1 medium head broccoli florets (8 ounces) cut into 2-inch florets (about 12 florets)
2/3 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Fresh black pepper
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook until bright green and just fork tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Place a small mound of Parmesan (one teaspoon) on the parchment paper. Place a piece of broccoli on top of the cheese, then use the bottom of a glass to press it down, crushing the broccoli to flatten it slightly into the cheese. Repeat with remaining cheese and broccoli.
Brush the top of each piece of broccoli with oil and sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper.
Transfer to the oven and roast for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and crisp around the broccoli (it will still be a little soft under the floret). Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. It will crisp up more as it cools. Use a metal spatula to transfer each piece to plates (3 pieces per serving) and serve warm.
108 calories, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 4 g carbohydrates, 232 mg sodium, 13 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar
This analysis is an estimate based on available material and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
From cookbook author and registered dietitian nutritionist Ellie Krieger.