For the love of broccoli, you need to make this. Pasta e broccoli is one of my favorite meatless meals, one that I cook probably every six weeks, to the delight of my household. It is comforting, crave-worthy and comes together in 45 minutes, tops.
If you’ve been following my blog, this one-pot recipe will sound similar to pasta e zucchini and pasta e fagioli. Like those meals, pasta e broccoli, as prepared in Naples, is a cross between soup and a pasta dish. (By the time you ladle out the servings, most of the liquid will have absorbed.) This one, though, features garlic but no onions or tomatoes.
To me, the best part is the broccoli. While there is a time and place for crisp-tender broccoli, this is not that time nor that place. The broccoli here gets cooked down until it’s very soft, with parts of it almost melting, enveloping the pasta in its garlicky goodness. It basically becomes like a broccoli sauce, accented with olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. Delicious!
I’d be willing to bet that even some broccoli haters would enjoy this dish. At any rate, I hope you give it a try and love it as much as we do. Speaking of which, I’ve got to run. That steaming bowl is mine!
- 1 bunch broccoli
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled & sliced)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 5 dashes red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/3 teaspoon salt (divided use)
- 5 1/2 cups warm water (divided use)
- 1 pound medium pasta (such as campanelle, penne or rigatoni)
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping each serving)
- Rinse the broccoli and pat it dry. Cut off the thick stalks (and discard them) so that you have florets with 2-3 inches of the stems attached. Slice any thicker stems lengthwise in half. Slice your garlic into thin rounds.
- Heat olive oil in a large pasta pot on medium high. Add garlic and cook for two minutes. Noting the time, add broccoli, pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir. Lower to medium. Let the broccoli cook for several minutes. When the olive oil has evaporated, add 1/2 cup of water to the pot (see notes) and stir. Cover the pot and let the broccoli continue cooking until it is soft. It should take about 25 minutes from the time you added the broccoli to the pot.
- When the broccoli is soft, add 5 cups of water to the pot. Add in 1/3 teaspoon salt and give it a quick stir. Cover the pan and increase heat to high. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook, uncovered, stirring periodically, until it is al dente. (Check for doneness three minutes before the al dente time listed on the package.) When the pasta is cooked, do not drain it. Turn off the heat and add in 1/3 cup Parmesan, stirring to combine.
- Serve with extra Parmesan and red pepper flakes at the table. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days.
To reduce the amount of olive oil needed, I incorporated the step of adding 1/2 cup of water to the pot with the broccoli when the 1/4 cup of olive oil has evaporated. If you prefer to use more olive oil instead, just eliminate the 1/2 cup of water and add enough extra oil to cook the broccoli until it's soft.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom and Nonna’s version)