Pasta con Broccoli

I like broccoli and eat it often. It is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can find; it’s readily available and inexpensive. People who say they don’t like broccoli have probably never had fresh broccoli prepared properly.

Here’s an adaptation of an old family favorite that is simply delicious.

  1. Cut up a head of fresh broccoli into whole or half florets. Use the stems too, but peel them as the skin tends to be tough the farther down from the florets.
  2. Blanch the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for about three minutes or until slightly tender but still crisp.
  3. Remove broccoli from the pot and cut into smaller pieces. Reserve the water to use for cooking the pasta.  If you’re in a hurry, you can cook the past while you finish cooking the broccoli.
  4. Chop a small onion and two cloves of fresh garlic. Sauté with two or three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat until the onion turns translucent. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent it from burning.
  5. Add the chopped broccoli, a couple shakes of salt, a bit more olive oil, and a half cup of water. Add additional spices to taste (I like sweet basil, a bit of oregano and a dash of cayenne pepper.) Stir it up, cover, and cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is tender but not mushy.
  6. Add a pat of butter, stir and turn heat way down to just keep it warm while you cook the pasta. You may want to adjust the salt and seasoning too. You may need to add a bit more water to the broccoli mixture before serving. It should not be too dry.
  7. You can use the reserved hot water (or not, as you prefer) to cook the pasta. Bring it back to a boil, adding enough water for the amount of pasta you will be cooking.
  8. Cook the pasta of your choice (I prefer whole wheat pasta, spaghetti, linguini or even rotini or penne) according to the directions on the package. Drain pasta and place on plates. Top the pasta with desired amount of the sautéed broccoli.
  9. Top it all off with freshly grated or shredded Parmesan, Romano, or asiago cheese and chopped walnuts (lightly toasted or raw). The family recipe used toasted bread crumbs as a topping but I find that it makes the dish too dry, and the nuts are more nutritious and I like the texture.
  10. Add more salt if needed. I prefer to use instead Asian fish sauce which has a bit of extra flavor. My favorite is Lucky brand because it has no preservatives or extra ingredients, only water, salt and anchovies.  
  11. Enjoy.

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