Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dinner in a Flash: Perfect Pasta Edition

This is an old recipe. I stole it from Sara Moulton years ago, when she was the host of Cooking Live. Its so easy I never even wrote it down ... and you won't need to either.

Bro's garden is beginning to bear fruit - or, rather, vegetables - and I am more than happy to pilfer my share. This weekend's haul included some of his glorious broccoli. Tender, sweet and freshly picked, its the highlight of this quick and easy meal.

Written amounts are flexible here, as we're mainly talking about a technique more than a recipe. The veggies are variable too. I've made this recipe dozens of times in dozens of ways. You can use almost any veg you like: cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus and carrots work well; and any combination of the above would be outstanding. If you've got some left over chicken, chickpeas, or some cooked white beans, feel free to throw them in at the end as well. Its all good and its all delicious, I promise.

Linguine with Caramelized Broccoli:
  • some extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large head of broccoli, stems removed, florets trimmed into small pieces
  • 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced (or more to taste)
  • some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • some crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 to 3 cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth*
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 pound of hot, cooked, whole wheat linguine
  • some freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • some chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Cook the past according to package directions - while the water is coming to the boil, you can throw together this lovely sauce.

Heat some olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet, enough to coat the bottom, over high heat until it shimmers. Add the broccoli and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and allow the broccoli to cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp, well-browned and caramelized. Remove the cover, stir, reduce heat to medium high and add a bit of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste. Continue cooking for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, stirring as needed, until the broccoli is just tender. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken or vegetable stock, stirring well to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Grate in some fresh nutmeg and allow the sauce to simmer over low heat for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, drain the cooked pasta, then add it to the skillet, along with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese, and toss to coat. Serve at once with additional Parmesan cheese and a bit of chopped parsley for garnish. Enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 3 or 4 depending on portion size.

*The amount of broth used is really up to you. This is a very thin sauce as it is and I like to serve it in a large bowl with both a fork and a soup spoon. I never measure the broth, I just keep adding it until it looks good. 2 to 3 cups for 1/2 pound of pasta should do it. Use your judgment and all will be well.

And let's have a word about that high heat crisping, shall we? Fear not and forge ahead, dear readers. With the heat that high and the oil sizzling, you're going to worry that you're burning the hell out of your veggies ... and ... you are! You must! Its all part of the plan. Take a look above and you'll see the kind of dark, very very dark, char that is our aim. You'll have to trust me on this, or, more specifically, trust Sara Moulton. The broccoli will not taste burnt, nor will the finished sauce. Caramelizing the tender green florets brings out a wonderful, nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the hint of garlic and whisper of cheese. In a word, its spectacular!

This is a quick, versatile, inexpensive and healthy meatless meal that comes together in about 10 minutes flat.

So, what are you waiting for? ... Get cookin'!


doggybloggy said...

way too easy - its like it falls out of the fridge and onto your plate all prepared....

words...words...words... said...

Yum! I'm starting to eat more vegetables, and broccoli and asparagus are on the list. This looks like a good way to ease in, since pasta is my favorite.

Dianne1216 said...

This looks so yummy -- I LOVE broccoli. Never thought to carmelize it! All I have to do is leave off the cheese and it is veganized...LOL

Heavenly Housewife said...

I love pasta, carbs r my friend :). Hubby doesn't let me cook broccoli though lol, he says it makes the house and the housewife smell *shock horror*.

Lola said...

I always enjoy broccoli with pasta, but my family doesn't. :(

Anonymous said...

Caramelized broccoli sounds great with pasta!

Anonymous said...

YUMMY! That looks INCREDIBLE! :)

The Diva on a Diet said...

doggybloggy - indeed, almost too easy!

words words words - I'm happy to hear it and me thinks some of your readers will be glad about the veggie goodness too! LOL

Di - So true ... the vegan-friendly offering here are few and far between ... enjoy it! ;)

HH - Oh no! I simply could not live without broccoli! My husband doesn't love it either, but when he's the one cooking he can choose the veggies!

Lola - waah, pasta and broccoli are such a good, natural combination. I wonder if they'd like the broccoli this way? ... the flavor is unique ... sweet, nutty, quite different from steamed broccoli.

5 Star - the caramelized broccoli is good enough to eat on its own. I always sneak a few pieces before they ever even reach the pasta. :)

Kimizzy - thanks! It is incredible and so easy. Win/win!

Anonymous said...

Great Recipe!!!

Deb said...

Yummo! I love pasta - I know not beachy but what the h*ll!