Jackson otherwise known as our dog otherwise known as our child is my sous chef. By sous chef I mean he stands under my feet when I'm cooking for dinner waiting for something to drop. He is a lover of people food and has a real affinity for crunchy vegetables most notably carrots and broccoli stems.
We've been on a bit of a broccoli kick as of late and for the most part I give him the broccoli stems since everyone knows that broccoli florets are really the best part of the plant. But a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across this pasta recipe and now I'm pretty sure I will never share my broccoli stems with Jackson again (kidding!).
This is pretty much the most amazingly wonderful weeknight pasta recipe you can find. It's a one pot meal that combines everything you need in a single dish. Broccoli stems are cooked until they are fork tender. They get thrown in the blender with lemon zest, olives, garlic, red pepper flakes, butter, and pasta water and blended together to form the most luxurious (yet somehow healthyish) pasta sauce you've ever met. Toss over pasta and with the broccoli florets and you have a dinner.
Pasta with Roman Broccoli Sauce
Recipe from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street
I really, really like this sauce with chickpea pasta. I'm actually a pretty huge fan of chickpea pasta because of how nutty it is and I think it pairs really well with such a green vegetable sauce. Also, this tastes like spring and I think everyone could use a taste of spring.
1 pound broccoli, stems and florets separated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups packed baby spinach
2 medium garlic cloves
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon capers or green olives
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
12 ounces rigatoni pasta
1 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmesan finely grated plus more to serve
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Peel the broccoli stems, reserving any leaves, and cut crosswise into ½-inch rounds. Add the stems and leaves to the boiling water and cook until fully tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender; reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Keep the water at a boil.
Cut the broccoli florets into 1- to 1½-inch pieces. Add the florets to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled. Again keep the water at a boil.
To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest and the reserved broccoli cooking water. Puree until smooth and bright green, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Stir the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli puree, ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the cheese. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.