Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Pasta + Broccoli = Italy

This is one of the classic combinations in the world of pasta -- originating in Sicily, I would guess. I've made it a lot over the years, and every time, when I take my first bite, I think, "This is Italy on a plate." It tastes earthy and a little bit spicy, and the texture is somewhat creamy but also substantial. I love it. And it's one more delicious way to use the good old crucifers (cauliflower could stand in for the broccoli). Keep in mind that you don't want the broccoli to be at all crunchy in this dish. You want it thoroughly cooked and softened for the authentic experience.

I've never written down a precise recipe, so I'll just spell out the process here:

1) Put several quarts of water on to boil for the pasta, salted.
2) To serve about 4 (depending on appetites), use 3/4 pound of pasta and 4 cups of broccoli, florets and peeled and diced stems. Get your broccoli cut up and set it aside so it's ready when you need it.
3) In a large saute pan, heat some olive olive and saute an onion and a few minced garlic cloves for a couple of minutes with a quarter teaspoon of dried chile flakes and some fresh or dried rosemary (a heaping teaspoon if dried, a tablespoon if fresh; you want the rosemary flavor to be pronounced in the finished dish).
4) Add a can of diced tomatoes, with juice, to the pan, along with a slosh of red or white wine, and a small amount of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 10 minutes so the flavors can meld. Don't put the pasta in the pot until the sauce is simmering and your timing will work out fine.
5) Add the pasta (linguine is a good choice) to the boiling water and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the broccoli and let it cook along with the pasta for another 3 or 4 or 5 minutes. When the pasta is al dente (you know that one, right, where the pasta is still a bit chewy but not hard in the center?), reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta and broccoli.
6) Add the pasta and broccoli to the sauce and cook all together for a minute or two, turning and stirring to get everything well-combined. You can add some of the reserved pasta-cooking water, if need be, to keep the mixture smooth and not gummy.
7) If you eat dairy products, add some crumbled feta and/or grated Parmesan just before serving, and pass more Parm at the table.

Blessings and bon appetit!



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