2 bunches broccoli (about 3 lb), stalks trimmed, tops broken into 2- to 3-inch florets
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into very thin slices, plus more for dish
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
Coarse sea salt or coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 1/2 to 2 oz)
1. Cook broccoli in boiling salted water until crisp-tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut florets lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices.
2. Coat a large oval gratin or 13"x9" glass baking dish with butter. Arrange broccoli slices, overlapping snugly, in rows in the dish. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Dot with 1/4 cup butter, then sprinkle with cheese (DO AHEAD: can be made 8 hours ahead; cover and chill).
3. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake gratinata uncovered until cheese is melted and broccoli tops brown, about 20 minutes.
NOTES: This dish is best made in stages. Boiling and draining the broccoli can be done well in advance. In fact, the longer you can drain the broccoli, the more water you can extract, the less soggy your final dish will be. This would even work fairly well with leftover steamed broccoli. Toss it together some time in the afternoon, then forget about it until dinner.
The directions here are a bit fussy; to be honest, I never make exact rows. It comes out just fine anyway. The only thing I might say is try to use large, fully mature broccoli. Chinese broccoli or young broccoli florets have a tendency to turn into mush too easily. Oh, and go easy on the salt – the Pecorino Romano is plenty salty.
Pairs Well With
Nothing fancy here; just good, basic side dishes. It's like a fussy French gratin, but without any concern that you're not making French cuisine properly.