Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pasta e Broccoli

Do Italians really eat pasta everyday? Mostly yes. At least that's true in my house and that of my in-laws. Not only do they eat pasta everyday but its usually at 1pm.

What that means of course is that it's necessary to change things up and mix in a variety of sauces and flavors. After all we can't really eat pasta and tomato sauce everyday.

One of my all time favorite pasta dishes is pasta e broccoli. My mamma always made it when I was growing up so not only is it super delicious but also a little reminder of home. Since produce is always seasonal around here, this is a dish that I usually only get to eat about for about 3 months out of the year but it's a perfect winter meal. Nice and hot and super filling.

I do things a little differently then Mamma Jo and Mamma Finetta (my Italian MIL). There are many different ways of making this dish, for example my mom usually boils the broccoli for about 5 minutes and leaves it a little al dente, whereas my MIL boils it until its super soft and then throws it in the blender and makes broccoli sauce of sorts. Me? I prefer it somewhere in the middle. The tips get soft and tend to melt when I mix them in with the hot pasta but the stems still have a slight crunch to them.

So here is my version. When I cook I never measure. I think this is pretty standard in most home cooked Italian meals. I know my mother never measures anything. So my version will consist of 'a little of this and a few of these'

Ingredients: (This makes 2 LARGE portions) 
1 large bunch of broccoli (I like to use fresh, but frozen would work just as well) 
3-4 garlic cloves (more or less if you prefer) 
about 250g of short Pasta such as pene, farfalle, or fussili
Parmigiano Reggiano, as much or as little as you like 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt to taste

So the first thing I do is break the broccoli into smaller pieces and rinse. Then boil a large pot of water add a pinch of salt and throw the broccoli in. Depending on how you like your broccoli cooked, leave to boil anywhere from 5-12 minutes.

Boil your pasta in the same pot after you remove your broccoli to absorb more flavor!

Next break off 3-4 garlic cloves and smash the skin off with a large chopping knife, then chop garlic  into chucks. Heat some olive oil in a separate pan and brown the garlic, but be careful not to burn it. When your broccoli is to the desired tenderness, transfer it with a slotted spoon into the pan with the garlic and saute. You may want to add a little of the water to the saute pan to keep it from drying out, I usually do. Next, while still occasionally stirring your broccoli, throw the pasta in the same water that you used to boil the broccoli. This is going to add some extra broccoli flavor to your pasta so its very important not to throw this water away. Grate some of that Parmigiano and mix it in with the broccoli, this also usually where I add a bit of salt to my broccoli too. And finally, just before the pasta is fully cooked, if your broccoli looks like its drying out, grab a ladle and add a bit of the water and mix it in. Drain your pasta and combine it with the broccoli. Top it off with the rest of the Parmigiano.
Make sure yours say 'Parmigiano Reggiano' on the rind. This is how you can be sure its authentic. I like mine on the fresher side, meaning that its going to be a bit soft. The hardness will depend on its age. You could also use other types of cheese. For example Mamma Jo uses an aged Pecorino Romano that has a nice tang to it and goes well with the broccoli. 
I like lots of cheese on mine so I usually grate up a good amount!
I ONLY use whole wheat pasta at home, this make the dish even more healthy! Its more filling this way too. Lots of fiber! Some people insist that they don't like it, but honestly after the fist couple of times you really can't tell the difference anymore. I've also tried several different brands and really find Barilla to be the best of the whole wheats! 
And there it is! A delicious, hot healthy home cooked lunch! (or dinner) 
Do you have a different version of this dish? I'd love to know how you make yours! Please share in the comments section below! Buon appetito!


  1. BUONA!!!!!!! I've had pasta everyday for lunch, exactly at 1pm for 2 weeks at my in-laws! How these people don't gain weight is beyond me :) :)

  2. Yum! I love pasta and broccoli. :) Love the photos too!

  3. Thank you to my two Christine's for your comments! Christy, it really is amazing how all manage to stay thin! Must be all that walking, carrying the groceries up the stairs and all the healthy produce! Seriously though! And Christine I remember a pasta and broccoli dinner at your beautiful apartment on Borgo la Croce many years ago with our buddy Joslyn! I miss having you both around!


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