Being out of town 4 out of 6 weeks is no way to sustain a food blog, that’s for sure. Needless to say, I’ve been going through posting withdrawal – BIG TIME! – and am quite happy to be back. Wheeeeeeee!
I hope you have all been well.
Being on the road has meant eating out a lot, which has been particularly pleasurable in Pittsburgh and in Chapel Hill, which is where I’ve been. But now that I’m back in my own kitchen, I admit to feeling a little like Dorothy’s Tin Man after a lot of rain and humidity.
All of a sudden making a meal from scratch seems an insurmountable feat. I mean, for days my biggest challenge has been picking up a menu and deciding what I was in the mood to eat. And now I have to prepare the meal? All of it? By myself?
I shared my foreboding sentiments with a friend, who told me to take heart. ‘It’s like riding a bicycle,’ she said, adding ‘You’ll reclaim it all, dear.’
As she uttered those words I looked questionably at my kitchen. All those pots and pans. All those oils and flour and legumes and condiments. Would I really remember how to use them all, my atrophied cooking muscles wondered.
Maybe so, I reasoned, but let’s start out small.
Take this fusilli pasta dish with broccoli. It doesn’t get any easier to make, and yet it’s one of the pasta dishes my girls consistently ask for. If two weeks of dinners go by without a showing from this familiar friend, they both make their concern known. It’s so sweet.
I understand their passion for this dish. It’s comfort food. It’s chewy and satisfying thanks to the pasta and has the savory taste of the ever so lightly pan-fried garlic and, of course, the deliciousness of the broccoli…all topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or pecorino for a little extra oomph) and a little fresh-cracked pepper. I mean, come on! So simple, yet so satisfying…and that it also happens to be healthy to boot is just a happy coincidence.
As an extra bonus, it makes your house smell amazing as well.
making pasta with broccoli & garlic
Trim 2 lbs. of broccoli to create nice little florets. You’ll have about a 1 1/2 left over when you’re finished trimming. Wash them.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Then add a generous handful of Kosher salt. Please don’t be shy with the salt…it’s such an important flavoring vessel in this dish with so few ingredients.
Now on to adding the pasta and broccoli to the water.
Before I begin with the rest of the directions, I will say that WHEN you add the pasta and broccoli depends on how long it takes to cook the pasta. For this particular dish, I like my broccoli nice and soft because I feel that the texture contributes nicely to the simple oil condiment. The fusilli I’m using require 8 minutes to cook, which is about the right amount of time the broccoli needs to cook in order for it to slightly dissolve. If you use pasta that needs 12 minutes or so, which is not unusual, just add the pasta first and then add the broccoli 5 minutes or so into cooking.
So add around ¾ of a pound (350 grams) of the pasta of your choice to the boiling, salted water.
Also add the washed broccoli florets, working with the cooking time required for the pasta shape and type you’ve selected. Cook according to package instruction.
In the meantime, pour a generous 1/3 cup of olive oil (I like to use a combination of half extra virgin and half regular olive oil) into a small skillet and add 4 large garlic cloves whose skins and sprouts have been removed.
And which then have been chopped. Like this.
By the way, feel free to add as much or as little red pepper flakes to the oil as well. I don’t because I have my girls and they would think I’m trying to be mean to them, given they’re not into spicy things.
Add the chopped garlic to the oil.
Place the skillet on a medium flame and heat it until you start seeing the garlic start to sizzle.
Once this begins to happen, allow it to cook for a minute or so and then take the skillet off the flame and set it aside.
I use this technique instead of just adding the chopped garlic to hot oil because I find I have a little more control over how the garlic cooks. You see, I don’t like when it cooks too much because I find it takes on a woodsy, slightly bitter taste which I don’t particularly care for. I’ve been burned too often in the past adding garlic to hot oil only to have it sizzle so quickly on me that it turned a dark golden color and developed that unsavory taste I mentioned. Using this technique, I avoid the situation altogether and keep my garlic nice and unburnt. Unburnt…is that even a word? Well, you know what I mean.
Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, drain them very well.
Don’t be afraid to shake the colander up a bit. Nothing can ruin a perfectly wonderful plate of pasta like a little pool of watery sauce at the bottom of the bowl.
Pour the pasta and broccoli back into your now empty pot and then pour the garlic oil on top. Place a few pieces of pasta and broccoli into the small skillet you’ve used to cook the garlic to sop up any extra condiment.
Mix very well.
Divvy up the cooked pasta among four bowls. Unless you and your kin is absolutely famished you will most likely have some leftovers, which are wonderful for lunch! Otherwise, it makes 4 generous servings.