Whenever I have too little time and too few ingredients on hand — or when I’ve been eating too much meat — I cook up some broccoli pasta.
Which means I make it for dinner about once every 10 days! It’s delicious, healthy, inexpensive and easy to prepare. The recipe, in fact, is a cinch, consisting of just a few ingredients — pasta, chicken broth, Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil and a large head of the namesake crucifer. I always have four of those ingredients in house, so all I need to do is run out and pick up some broccoli and I’m good to go.
Another of this recipe’s charms is its flexibility. I can swap in vegetable broth for chicken broth, spaghetti for the angel hair pasta, and any other grated hard cheese for the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sometimes I’ll even lose the broccoli in favor of roasted cauliflower or Brussels sprouts.
But what makes the dish so popular in my house is its comfort factor. I serve it soupy, so you can slurp the chicken broth along with the strands of pasta. I also make sure there’s some crusty bread within easy reach, which helps to mop up the broth not captured with a spoon.
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In the original version of this recipe (I’ve been making it for years), I sauteed the broccoli in olive oil over very high heat until it was quite brown around the edges. The problem with this method is that the broccoli quickly soaked up all the olive oil and I always ended up having to add quite a bit more. I switched to oven-roasting it, which helps to decrease the amount of olive oil necessary. It also requires very little baby-sitting.
This dish is so economical it’s almost ecological. I use all of the broccoli, not just the florets. For years I used to trash the stems, but the stems are also plenty edible. Just peel off the skin, cut them up, and you’re ready.