Friday, March 04, 2005


I’ve had this recipe for a while (I think it may be from Jack Bishop’s Pasta e Verdura, but I’m too lazy to check), but don’t make it often. I like but don’t completely love broccoli, and this pasta’s pretty broccolicentric. At the same time, I like how unique it is; you don’t see a lot of recipes that call for the stems as well as the florets, or that make the broccoli the base of the sauce, rather than just some chunks floating around in it. But the last time I made this dish—just after moving to California, before the advent of Bookcook—neither A nor I liked it. It was bland and the sauce was too thick and overwhelmingly broccoli-tasting (with that cabbagey undercurrent that broccoli sometimes has), and I was ready to dump the recipe for good. This week, however, desperate to make a recipe that hadn’t yet been posted on Bookcook (hey, I wanna keep you comin’ back for more!), I decided to give it another shot. And this time, this time it was great! I went heavy on the seasonings (especially the garlic and black pepper), and added some red pepper flakes, which the original recipe didn’t call for. I used nice fresh farmers’ market broccoli, and I think I (accidentally) bought significantly less than the 2 pounds the recipe called for (I got two bunches, but I guess they were small)—maybe more like 1¼ or 1½ pounds? (Do you know, 2 pounds is a heck of a lot of broccoli?) Whatever it was that I did, it did the trick. The sauce was fresh and green, bursting with good flavors, and had a nice pesto-like texture. We both enjoyed it, and the recipe (with my adaptations) has been rescued from purgatory and returned to the regular rotation. Three cheers for (carefully prepared) broccoli!

1 large bunch broccoli (about 1½ pounds)
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta, and a smaller pot of water to a boil for cooking the broccoli. While these are heating, separate the broccoli florets from the stalks and separate the florets into small, bite-sized pieces. Trim a thick slice off the base of the stalks and trim away any other parts that look too hard or woody. Peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler and slice them into ¼-inch-thick disks. When the water in the small pot boils, add the broccoli and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer briskly until the broccoli is quite tender. (The recipe says about 10 minutes, but I probably don't do it quite as long—you don’t want the broccoli to get overcooked and lose all its nice green taste. Maybe 5-7 minutes? Use your judgment.)

2. When the broccoli is cooked, drain it and transfer it to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly. Then chop it as fine as possible.

3. When the pasta water boils, add the penne and cook until al dente.

4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet and saute over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped broccoli and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet and simmer everything briskly until the broccoli forms a rough puree and is no longer soupy, about 15 minutes (you can add more cooking water as needed if the mixture appears dry). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. When the pasta is done, drain it, toss the hot pasta with the sauce, and serve with grated cheese and more black pepper.

Serves: 6
Time: 40 minutes

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