Broccoli and Pecorino Pasta
So I was somewhat hesitant about trying this recipe, as the idea of overcooked broccoli is, quite frankly, the stuff of childhood nightmares. Those overcooked florets with barely enough coherent cell structure left to prevent them from turning into a gloopy mush are far from appetising (though I admit somewhat backwardly nostalgic). But this recipe is far from that, and is now something I have pretty much cooked at least one day every week ever since.
For the original recipe please read the article by Rachel Roddy in the Guardian, as it and she are both wonderful. I think what stuck out about the recipe was that it solved a regular back of the fridge problem I have been having with broccoli for a few months now. I always buy it with good intentions, as it is both a) very good for me and b) I actually really like it, but I have become bored with the usual ways I eat it. As a result it ends up going a bit yellow at the back of the fridge until I give in and just make soup again. Or worse, chuck it in the bin…
What appeals about this recipe, then, is how simple it is. It is essentially just one ingredient designed to be used with other things which are usually kicking around, or easily substituted for what is. This is both a) far from daunting for a culinary task when you have little motivation and b) saves having to go out to the store, which is an increasingly arduous task given the current lock down.
The recipe is essentially in two stages, a simmering of the broccoli before a fry and “mini braise”. First Simmer the broccoli until soft, but not fully cooked (7 minutes or so). I have changed the original recipe a bit from here. I decided to add either bacon lardons or anchovies to give it a greater salty, savoury kick. Whilst the broccoli is simmering, fry either the anchovies or bacon lardons until dissolved or golden brown. Do this in a wide bottomed pan that is deep enough to toss the pasta in at the end. Then add minced garlic and sliced chili, but do not let the garlic brown. I actually prefer to use both one fresh chili and some dried here as it gives two different kinds of heat. I also chose to use butter and some olive oil, as I wanted to get that really nice combination of butter and garlic which is somehow a bit more fragrant, I think, than with just olive oil. The olive oil, however, is useful to stop the butter going brown if you get distracted, which I easily do. If things do start to brown, add some water from the broccoli pan.
The second stage is to add the broccoli. For this it is best if you have really cut the broccoli small. Don’t’throw away the water as you can cook a) the pasta in it and b) will need some of it to keep the broccoli going in its mini braise. Keep adding the water to keep a very low amount in the pan with the broccoli and stir gently.
Keep prodding and mashing the broccoli gently with a fork or wooden spoon. The timing of thid will vary depending on how long you cooked it before. But by the end it should be a smooth velvety bright green. The pre-blanching and frying of the brocoli with the chili and garlic should stop it going a horrible green like school dinner, so it should still be a nice emerald green. But keep a low amount of water in the pan.
At this point add the pasta to the pan and stir in about twice as long as you think you need to. Add more of the pasta water or some olive oil if it looks a little tight. I added A LOT of grated pecorino here and some more black pepper also. If you like things salty, add more here now also. I do, but I am a particularly salty person it seems.
I then let it sit for a minute or so before eating. I think this is better, in the same way that pasta sauces are often better the next day. It allows the temperature to come down a bit, which can be flavour inhibiting. I also think any dish with a heavy garlic base tends to taste more fuller when it is cooler.
Anyway, I really love this recipe. It’s a good way to get broccoli into your diet, use up bits left in the fridge, is simple and can be quite inexpensive.