Pasta con i broccoli
This is the third time this week we’ve eaten pasta with broccoli. If you’d told me this last week, I’d never believe you. Until this week, in fact, I’d only ever eaten pasta con i broccoli one time and that was one time too much.
You see, way back in our earliest days of courtship, after I’d blown him away with my version of a classic vegetable pasta, Francesco decided to one up me with another of his favorites: pasta con le cime di rapa, otherwise known as pasta with rapini. Or pasta with broccoletti or pasta with broccoli rabe.
As you see, there are lots and lots of ways to call the same vegetable. But you know what I call it? Disgusting.
So you can imagine my horror – and Francesco’s – when he plated his special dish and look on with bated breath as I took my first bite, fully expecting me to be blown away. Completely overwhelmed by the conflicting sensations of wanting to impress him with my super awesome laidback I-eat-everything-and-I-love-your-cooking vibe, hunger, and the feeling that I might be sick if I took another bite, I did the only thing I could do.
It sounds overly dramatic – and it was – but honest to God I still get chills up and down my spine when I think of that pasta. I consider myself relatively open to interesting flavors but bitter doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’ve written before about how slowly Francesco chops things, and how this has made me
actually insane dismiss his offers to cook. But now you all know the real reason I’m scared to find Francesco in the kitchen, especially if any broccoli-related specimen was in the near vicinity.
Oh, friends, how things change.
After 18 months of wedded bliss, Francesco and I occasionally abandon his European ethos and – gasp! – eat dinner in front of the TV (which, in our case, is a 15″ computer monitor). One of our favorite shows of late (ie. after MadMen and before Dexter) is Il commissario Montalbano, which will undoubtedly be familiar to every one of the…oh right there’s just the one…Italian who reads this blog. In any case, il commissario himself, a Sicilian police commissioner, is a pretty great guy and one of his quirks is his appreciation for eating well, something that, by the looks of things, isn’t hard to do in Sicily.
On one of the reruns we watched last week, the commissioner pays a visit to a potential witness who’s in the middle of preparing a simple plate of pasta con i broccoli and, naturally, gourmand that he is, ends up staying for dinner.
Back in the real world, Francesco and I went to the farmers market the next morning but apparently one of us still had pasta con i broccoli on the brain. Feeling especially generous, or perhaps numbed by the ridiculously pleasant market scenes of flowers, produce, babies and puppies, I nodded in peaceful, harmonious agreement when he suggested what I’d been dreading for three years.
By the time I had a chance to reconsider or feign illness, the broccoli had been bought and his appetite whet. That evening, I hung back with my glass of wine, pretending not to notice that he was NOT going to put cheese on the pasta (!), and tried to soften the damage by filling up on bread and cheese.
In the end, though, it was all for naught. The pasta – made with normal, everyday broccoli, and therefore far less harsh, and NO CHEESE – was awesome. So awesome that I requested it again. And again. Finally Francesco is back in the kitchen. With his ridiculous slowness and all.
And I’m eating better than ever.
FRANCESCO’S PASTA CON I BROCCOLI
Francesco says: “C’e’ da capire una cosa: cime di rapa e broccoli sono due cose diverse.” In other words, the bitter rapini of my nightmares has very little to do with this dish, which is made with run of the mill broccoli. As you can see by the short list of ingredients, this dish – possibly the first vegan offering here at The Shortlists – is exceedingly simple. But don’t let that fool you. If you like broccoli, you’ll love this. And you won’t even miss the cheese.
two medium heads broccoli
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
one large pinch chili flakes
500 grams (1 lb / 1 box) pasta (preferably orecchiette or penne)
Boil the whole broccoli in a large pot of salted water for about 15 or 20 minutes, until soft.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan with high sides, cook the garlic in ample olive oil over medium heat until lightly browning. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, remove the broccoli from the water (which should still be boiling) and add it to the garlic in the pan.
Add 1 box of pasta to the boiling water you used for the broccoli (it’s ok if there are still some pieces of broccoli floating around).
Meanwhile, continue cooking the broccoli in the garlic and olive oil over medium heat, using a wooden spoon to break up. Add the chili flakes and salt and pepper to taste. When pasta is al dente, use a slotted spoon to remove from the water and add to the broccoli. Stir together over the heat for a minute or two, adding more olive oil if it looks dry. Serve.