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Cooking Tips

To Make Pasta with Longer Cooked Broccoli

I had the courage to tell you about this dish for several years. Why courage, you might ask? What’s so bold about the timeless combination of broccoli and pasta, Deb? This is the cooking time. This broccoli is not al dente. It “does not retain the crunch”, “still has a little bite” or retains the green tint with which it entered the pan. And, even bolder, he does not want to. This broccoli applies a Philosophy of cooking vegetables that is quite polarized from our present Moment, when the minutes of walking vegetables by the fire have dropped to the point that some of us even advocate eating cauliflower, asparagus and even broccoli raw. [Or, in a variation of the words from a steak cooktop I once saw on the wall of a Texas restaurant: a good farmer could still save the vegetables.]

But there is a time and a place for every vegetable cuisine, and this one really made me fall in love with what happens when broccoli is cooked until it starts to melt. Above all, it’s not the boring, moist, cooked-to-passed away broccoli nightmare of a childhood cafeteria or a dinner at Grandma’s. [Justice for the grandmothers, but still for feeding us anyway ungrateful.] It’s silkier, closer to braised and has an elusive vegetable sweetness, a nod to the vegetable confit that only comes with the luxury of undisturbed.

Which is funny because it’s all in the service of a pasta and broccoli meal that’s actually perfect for weekdays-a one-pot meal. It takes a side of an Apulian dish, usually prepared with Orecchiette and broccoli Rabe (Orecchiette con cime di rapa). The easiest way to prepare it is to cook the vegetables and pasta together and season them at the end with olive oil, garlic, cheese and spices, as we do with this garlic and broccoli Rabe pasta. However, this differs in two ways. First of all, the ordinary (Calabrian) less splitting broccoli is exchanged for Rabe broccoli. The broccoli is first sauteed in a copious drizzle of olive oil and many flavors – garlic, lemon zest, pepper and anchovies, which are wonderful here, even if you think you don’t like them. This step ensures that the finished vegetables will taste not only cooked, but complex and fragrant the next time we add both the dried pasta and the water and finish cooking together. I can’t wait for you to find out how good it is.

Separate the “Tops” of the broccoli from the stems. Cut or break the tips into 3/4-inch florets. Peel the gnarled stems and cut them 1/4 inch thick.

In a large deep frying pan or saucepan, combine the olive oil and garlic and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and just starting to turn golden brown. Add the anchovies, if any, the lemon zest and the chilli flakes and cook for a further 2 minutes with a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies into small pieces. If you are using it, add a sip of plonk and cook until it disappears. Add the broccoli and stems, Kosher salt and many pieces of black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. The broccoli will darken. Add the dried pasta and water and bring the mixture to a boil.

Cover the pan and let rest for 12 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Lift the lid and stir several times while the pasta is cooking, just to make sure it cooks evenly. Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest with the lid on for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and season to taste, adding more salt if necessary. Finish with lemon juice, a little olive oil, extra black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Pour into plates and serve with more Parmesan cheese.

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