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Easy and versatile: pasta with broccoli

Posted in Food & Entertaining

BroccoliI attended college in the city where I was born, Bologna, while still living at home. Sort of. My mother put up with my comings and goings at all hours, creeping in at 5 in the morning; inviting friends for lunch or dinner at the drop of a hat; shutting myself in my room for marathon study sessions. No questions asked, provided I kept my grades up.

Days on end were spent at my friend Roberta’s who, at the age of 16, was given her own apartment, conveniently located a stone’s throw from my house. Roberta loved to cook and we lived through a macrobiotic period, amongst many others, the results of which are a collection of recipes that sometimes pop out of one or other of my cookery books: I never make them but I keep them around to remind me of those times. Roberta gifted me the recipes when I moved to London, where my cooking skills, or lack thereof, were not exactly honed.

Like all young people taking their first steps into the big wide world, I felt an innate need to demarcate my territory, even in matters of food, which is why I embraced everything that did not reek of home: burgers, spuds, bangers and mash, vegetable stews, curries and Chinese staples were all dishes that never made an entrance in my mother’s kitchen. Even when it came to pasta, which I have always adored, I tended to gravitate towards simple recipes I picked up from one friend or another. It was a long time before I could come full circle and appreciate the bounty around which I grew up.

I can’t quite recall where my fondness for pasta with broccoli came from, maybe from my friend Roberta. Over the years, it has been a staple for feeding vegetables to the vegetable-averse in my family. Also, it is so easy and quick, it comes in handy when I am pressed for time. Over the years, it has been modified and, if you are not vegetarian, the grown-up version features either bacon or anchovy fillets. To the basic recipe, you could also add some toasted almonds for protein. Or maybe some sausage. Take your pick and maybe let me know what you come up with.pasta with broccoli

  • Start with a bunch of broccoli. Remove the thick stems and break the broccoli into small florets. Cook them in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, until fairly tender, more tender than if you were serving them as a side dish.
  • Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon, bring the water back to boil and cook the pasta in it.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a large pan. Add some minced or smashed garlic and red pepper flakes to taste. Let them sizzle for a minute and throw in the broccoli, which you will have cut in small bites. Add salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes. If they get too dry, add a few spoonfuls of the cooking water. Break them up further with a wooden spoon as they cook, so that, essentially, you will get a sauce.
  • Drain the pasta, throw it back in the pot with a good helping  of olive oil and the broccoli sauce. Serve immediately and dust generously with either Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.

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9 Comments

  1. This is one of my favorite go to recipes.

    I cannot believe you posted it today! I’ve just moved to new area and I’m still figuring out the markets. Was thinking about buying some broccoli. I have everything else I need at home.

    January 21, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      And which delightful part of Rome did you move to, if I may ask?

      January 22, 2016
      |Reply
  2. Broccoli is my most favourite vegetable! This dish sounds perfect for me 🙂

    January 21, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Bonus points: it’s healthy.

      January 22, 2016
      |Reply
  3. This is one of the pasta dishes I make most often. Sometimes with anchovies without pecorino (but sometimes sauteed breadcrumbs), sometimes with lots of pecorino, and sometimes with mussels (and anchovies). As the dish reminds me of orecchiette con cime di rape, I usually make it with orecchiette.
    I often make the simple version with cheese as primo when I have a simple secondo and no inspiration for contorni.
    I cook the broccoli with the pasta (adding it 6 mins before the pasta will be ready) and like your different way of cooking the broccoli. Will have to try that!
    PS it’s clear you’re a Californian girl now, stating that broccoli as a side is cooked for less than 5 minutes…

    January 21, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I might have to read this comment to my mother! She always complains my vegetables are too crunchy while I accuse her of cooking hers to a mush. First time I thought my California-ness had anything to do with it. Well spotted.

      January 22, 2016
      |Reply
  4. This looks very yummy! Thanks, Campari Girl – I can’t wait to try it with fusilli and some added bacon or sausage meat.

    January 21, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Yes, well..the tastier version…

      January 22, 2016
      |Reply

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