Broccoli and Pasta
Visiting a friend on the East Coast one summer as a young teen, I got what her mom called "Italian lessons." No, I didn't learn the language. But I learned a lot about family communications, Italian-American style. Rather than keeping feelings mostly bottled up like my family tended to do, these folks actually told each other when something was bugging them. Imagine that!
Something else I learned? How to make a wonderful broccoli and pasta main dish with no cookbook, no recipe card, no measuring tools .... just hands & memory. This ended up being one of the first dishes I cooked for myself and roommates in my first apartment, and I've continued ever since -- now for my own family. I've tweaked my friend's mom's recipe a bit, substituting olive oil for butter and adding red pepper flakes for some kick. But otherwise it's the same yummy dish she taught me.
See if this very easy dinner, sure to please even the broccoli averse, won't be a hit at your table too...
- One large bunch of fresh broccoli, or a packet of fresh broccoli florets
- One pound pasta, any shape
- 2 large cloves fresh garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or more, to taste)
- pinch or two of red pepper flakes
- kosher salt to taste
- fresh-ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh-grated parmesan
- Chop the broccoli florets to a medium-fine consistency. (We don't use the stalk part, but you certainly could do so if desired -- thinly sliced.)
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a few dashes of kosher salt, then add the pasta and chopped broccoli all together.
- Cook until the pasta is al dente (check pasta box for timing -- depends on shape) and the broccoli is very soft, even mushy.
- While the pasta and broccoli are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Press or mince the garlic and add it to the oil, then sautÃ© until soft and golden. Add the red pepper flakes, crushing them with your fingers for more flavor as you drop them into the skillet.
- When the pasta and broccoli are done cooking, drain the large pot.
- Gently stir the pasta and broccoli mixture until the softened bits of broccoli coat the pasta, making a sort of "sauce." Add the oil-garlic-red pepper mixture & stir again to coat. If the pasta seems to be sticking too much, you can add a bit more olive oil.
- Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh black pepper, then quickly stir in the parmesan cheese. Taste once more for salt & pepper, then serve immediately -- with more grated parmesan at the table for sprinkling on top.
We got a metal pasta server last year for Christmas, and it is soooo much nicer to use (and easier to clean) than our old plastic one.
Lucini is my favorite olive oil to use when a dish has few ingredients & the flavor of the oil really counts. In the summer, I love drizzling it plus some reduced balsamic over our homegrown tomatoes and basil plus some sliced fresh mozzarella. I also think good olive oil makes a great gift alternative to wine, when you're invited for dinner at an avid home cook's.