We’re on the final approach to the big T-day, and after that, a rapid succession of holiday festivities through the end of the year. At this juncture, our thoughts have turned to our waistlines and how to minimize the damage while enjoying all the fun, food and drink of the season. Simplicity in the form of all-veggie meals and stir-frying come to mind first, along with some tasty lean proteins and roasted roots.
This past week was very busy, and I was really bad about getting in my normal quota of green and cruciferous veggies. When this happens I immediately start craving fresh broccoli the way most people crave chocolate. Seriously! Broccoli has always been my favorite vegetable, so maybe that accounts for it. I love it roasted, sauteed, steamed, stir-fried, sauced, casseroled, curried, divaned and raw…and if there was a dessert preparation for it, I might even try it! Um, well…on second thought, maybe not, but you get my drift.
This recipe featuring broccoli is adapted from The New Basics Cookbook (Silver Palate), and though I make it year round, it’s particularly good right now when broccoli is at it’s seasonal best. It’s so very simple, only 6 ingredients plus salt and pepper—and yes there’s a lot of garlic, and yes there are two fats in it. But some olive oil spread over 6 servings is good for you, and the little bit of butter adds moisture and a richness of taste that is worth the few calories. The end result has a sweet and nutty flavor from the garlic, and the meatiness and tiny bit of crunch from the broccoli makes it a most satisfying pasta dish—a meal in itself, and one you can feel pretty good about eating, too! If you can find it and afford it, do please grate a bit of the real parmigiano reggiano on top for serving, and we like ours with a little more freshly ground black pepper. Try this dish…your taste buds, and dare I say your waistline, will thank you.
Penne with Fresh Broccoli and Garlic (Makes 6 Servings)
1 1b. penne pasta, preferably whole wheat
2 lbs. fresh broccoli, washed, florets cut into bite-sides pieces (save the large stalks for soup stocks or compost)
10-12 large cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and cut cross-wise into thin slices
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the broccoli. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a colander to drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat the broccoli dry with a paper towel. Bring the large pot of water you used for the broccoli back to a boil, add a heaping tablespoon of salt and the penne. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, drain, return to the empty pot and toss with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil in a large deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the pan, until the garlic is just beginning to brown around the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Add the drained broccoli to the pan, season with a little bit of salt and a lot of fresh ground black pepper and cook, stirring or shaking, until the broccoli is tender and the garlic is a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the drained and oiled pasta to the pan with the broccoli, reduce the heat to medium low and stir gently to combine. Add the 2 Tablespoons of butter and allow the pasta to warm while the butter melts, stirring gently. When the butter has melted and the pasta is heated through, taste and add more pepper or salt if needed. Serve, passing the freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the pepper mill.