Il broccolo is pronounced BROHK-koh-loh, and refers to the green tree-like vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family, along with cauliflower and brussels sprouts.
Il broccolo is a male countable noun. English speakers are more familiar with its plural form, i broccoli. When you’re in Italy, you’ll find that the plural form – i broccoli – is used most often, since rarely would just one little “tree” be eaten or served at a time:
insalata di broccoli – rigatoni con broccoli – broccoli fritti – zuppa di broccoli
With regards to the above, you might also see zuppa di broccolo or broccolo fritto written on a menu (using the singular form of the word broccolo). This variation is less used but equally correct, and the difference between the two is not something an Italian student / food tourist needs to be concerned about.
Aside from pasta con broccoli, broccoli gratinati [broccoli gratin] is frequently served.
Il broccolo romanesco is an Italian-bred variety. A cold-weather crop, the flavor of broccolo romanesco is delicate and similar to cauliflower.
Etymologically speaking, il broccolo is a diminutive form of the root brocco, a word that describes a thorny branch or a metallic point.
The term broccolo is also used as an insult, implying that someone is foolish, easily duped, or clumsy. If you hear an Italian say Che broccolo! they’re probably complaining about someone’s ineptitude, not admiring their vegetables.
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