This authentic Italian pasta dish is perfect for weeknight cooking | Food

In so lots of means, food stuff defines cultures and brings persons alongside one another. A nicely-well prepared meal can transport me to its nation of origin in a lot the exact way audio and art can. Nonetheless, the elemental effects of food items can literally be felt in the gut.

Of all the world’s meals, dishes motivated by Italy’s La Cucina Italiana are my favorites to get ready at home. I like the simplicity of La Cucina Italiana, which tends to emphasis on allowing a few exceptional substances to shine, specifically make, in its dishes. Mainly because Italy is a state with extensive foodstuff traditions manufactured up of lots of regions, which only became unified in 1861, there are lots of regional distinctions in its cucina.

I’d like to share a recipe for orecchiette with broccoli, a dish originating in Puglia, which I acquired from a great lady, Mary Beautiful, who owned a store I labored in briefly, known as Pasta Perfecto.

As you can picture, she taught me how to make pasta dishes including ravioli and tortellini, but almost as importantly, she explained what it was like to be introduced up by her mom, who had appear immediately from Italy. She gave me a come to feel for old environment Italian values and foodstuff traditions. Mary described how her mother’s dinners were being normally manufactured up of numerous dishes she would make through the working day, which would preserve heat on her stove a custom which has been typically dropped in the rapidly-paced transition to the present day globe. Food and shelter had been always readily available to loved ones members in need to have, but dollars was never ever supplied or lent.

Mary informed me stories of how her mother was carefully unimpressed with the values of contemporary American everyday living and one story exemplifying her contempt stood out.

Mary and her partner experienced just bought their very first new auto and proudly introduced it by her mother’s property to give her a ride in their new prized possession. Mary’s mom sat silently in the front seat as they drove her all over, hoping to impress her with its shiny chrome and mild trip. When they returned to her mother’s dwelling, Mary and her husband requested her what she assumed of their brand name-new car. Mary’s mom broke her silence and replied disdainfully in her damaged English, “It no just take me everywhere I cannot go in my car.”


(For two ample portions)

This dish Mary taught me originates from Puglia, the boot heel of Italy, the place the formed pasta orecchiette is standard. Orecchiette, “little ears” in English, is cupped-shaped pasta usually with ridges in its dried sort, which are best for a dish these as this with a lighter bodied sauce and small bits of vegetable as it cradles the sauce and vegetable in the pasta’s minor cup.

The necessary approach for this dish can substitute broccoli with one more brassica, this sort of as broccoli rabe or Romanesco. I have included cannellini beans, prosciutto, sausage or leftover roast chicken if you happen to be wanting for extra protein. Anchovy is a great addition as nicely.

At 1st glance, the notion of mushy broccoli with pasta doesn’t audio appealing. In this dish, I prefer the broccoli to be steamed until just smooth so that the broccoli will breakdown when mashed, but continue being agency enough to manage some texture and not to compromise the vegetables dietary value by overcooking. However, it can be a little bit a lot more high-class when the broccoli is cooked further developing a saucier closing dish.

You may possibly glance at the recipe and exclaim, “Six cloves of garlic!” and it would be way too significantly for most if the cloves had been minced or, God forbid, put by means of a garlic push. The whole garlic cloves are browned above a medium very low heat in a great fruity, peppery Italian extra virgin olive oil producing a equivalent mellow garlic taste as roasted garlic. In chemical phrases, the a lot more the mobile partitions of raw garlic are damaged, the more of the sulfur-containing molecule called allicin is produced, which is the resource of the pungent sharpness discovered in garlic. Heat destroys allicin and is the cause why 6 cloves of garlic mashed just after cooking imparts a mellow richness rather than a sharp pungency. There are times when some of garlic’s sharp pungency is desired, but I aspect with Anthony Bourdain’s quote with regards to the use of a garlic push, “I really do not know what that junk is that squeezes out the conclude of those items, but it ain’t garlic.”

A last take note about cooking pasta. I constantly take away a cup or two of the pasta water just prior to the pasta is completed to incorporate to the pasta sauce for taste and its ability to thicken the sauce owing to the pasta starch unveiled into the drinking water. Insert the pasta h2o until finally the sauce reaches the desired thickness.


1 big head of broccoli, about 5 cups, stems peeled and chopped, and the head damaged into smaller florets.

2 cups dried orecchiette pasta

6 medium entire cloves of garlic, peeled

1/4 cup high-quality Italian excess virgin olive oil

Zest from one lemon

Pinch or two of purple pepper flakes

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano

Salt and pepper to style


Slice the broccoli as explained and steam for 6 or 7 minutes right up until smooth and set aside.

Set on a big pot of salted h2o to boil for the pasta.

In the meantime brown the garlic cloves more than medium low warmth in the olive oil in a pan massive enough to be ready hold all the ingredients. I use my workhorse 12-inch solid iron fry pan.

As soon as the drinking water comes to the boil, prepare dinner the orecchiette for one minute less than the encouraged time for al dente on the package’s directions.

Though the pasta boils add the steamed broccoli to the pan with the garlic and olive oil and get started mashing with a potato masher.

About one moment before the pasta is completed boiling eliminate about 2 cups of the pasta drinking water.

Incorporate about 1 cup of the pasta h2o to the broccoli combination and carry on mashing the broccoli and garlic combination.

Add the drained cooked pasta, lemon zest, purple pepper flakes and continue on to cook dinner although adding much more pasta h2o right up until the pasta reaches sought after texture.

Include Parmigiana Reggiano and include more pasta h2o if required, right up until the sauce reaches the preferred thickness. Style for salt and pepper and serve in a vast bowl with a fork and soup spoon.