Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spicy Pasta with Broccoli...

I don't know what it is about broccoli... I would not go near it growing up and didn't work it into my diet until maybe 6 years or so ago. Though, I can probably say that about most vegetables, but broccoli ranks right there. However, now I love to snack on it raw, steamed, roasted or sautéed - funny how things change! I think it would be fun to grow it next year if the gardening continues to work out for us... before you know it, we'll have dug up the entire back yard and have filled it with food! The dogs may have something to say about that though.

In the mean time, we'll just have to pick it up from the market like we did today so I could make this Spicy Pasta with Broccoli for dinner. What initially drew me into this dish was the use of the entire head of broccoli, stalks and all. The stalks don't seemed to be used all that often and while they seem to be slightly less flavorful than the florets, they are still tasty and full of nutrition. While you don't have to do much to the florets but slice them off, the stalks do take a little more effort. The first thing you need to do is remove their tough outer skin either by using a peeler or paring knife - once that is off, they then need to be sliced into thin pieces so they are able to cook at the same rate as the florets. The stalks also work well for to make broccoli slaw instead of or in addition to cabbage for crunch.

Use any type of short pasta you like - orecchiette or fusili would be nice, but our pantry already had penne on hand and we went with that. While the pasta was off cooking, we had another pan on the stove heating up with a slick of oil to toast a few cloves of sliced garlic and a couple pinches of crushed red pepper. The broccoli florets and stems were slid into the party with a splash of water - this creates a steamy environment once the cover is added to help start chipping away at the rawness. After a few minutes, the cover is removed, allowing the excess water to evaporate and the broccoli to finish coming to the crisp-tender point.

When the pasta was ready, we scooped out a rough half cup of the starchy water, then drained away the rest. The pasta was put back into the pot (off heat!), along with the garlicky broccoli and handful of fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Enough of the saved cooking liquid was added, which melted the cheese and bound this dish together with a thin sauce. Once portioned out, we sprinkled a little extra Parmesan on top for a salty finish, which was definitely welcomed and appropriate.

An enticing veggie meal for sure, if you wanted to stretch this out and introduce a little meat, I bet cooked and crumbled Italian turkey sausage (especially hot, but I wouldn't dismiss the sweet variety!) would be an exciting addition to bring in a little flare.


  1. Mmmm - or thinly sliced chicken breast could go in and get sauteed with garlic.

    Head's up - you MAY find broccoli's not worth growing unless you can dedicate enough space to it, and if you're good about keeping the caterpillars out of it. I swore off it a few years after a few disappointing tries. For some reason I decided to try again this year, bought some transplants to put in (rather than starting from seed), and it's been a WONDERFUL spring for it. The mostly-cool weather had probably helped. And I had floating row covers over the broccoli for most of it's development, and that kept the cabbage white butterflies out of it, so no little green caterpillars in the broccoli heads when you cook them.

    And as a bonus - when you grow your own, you cut of the head of broccoli but leave the plant in place. It keeps putting out side-shoots of small florettes, and those, plus their stems, actually seem more tender than the one big head! Not a ton, but well worth leaving it in place.

  2. Looks yummy!


  3. Jeph - Thanks for the tips! Plenty of think about for next year.

    Quinn - And it was!