Monday, 26 September 2011

Pasta con Broccoli

Sicilian dishes traditionally bring together Italian & North Africa culiinary traditions: the inclusion for instance of saffron, raisins and pinenuts in a simple pasta dish. In the Inspector Montalbano series of books, by Andrea Camilleri, the eponymous hero, in a fictitious Sicilian town, seems to focus as much on what he has just eaten or will soon eat as solving his cases, and in one of these novels is irate at being disturbed when eating a typical Sicilian broccoli pasta.

A cult dish then, arguably at least. A Google search for the same, as you would imagine, does not of course result in a definitive recipe but rather the consensus on ingredients does seem to be broccoli, pine nuts, raisins and saffron.

The recipe that follows is an amalgamation of those I found: not being a fan of fruit in savoury dishes (albeit dependent on the fruit and the dish) mine omits raisins.

Pasta con broccoli
Serves 2

1 tsp olive oil
150g cavatappi or other short pasta
100g tenderstem broccoli, cut into florets & the stalks about 5cm long pieces
10g pine nuts
1½ anchovy fillets (preserved in oil), drained and finely chopped
sml pinch of saffron, soaked in a little hot water (from the broccoli once cooked)
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato concentrate
generous pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the broccoli fairly briefly - only a few minutes you want it cooked but still crunchy. Remove and set aside in a covered bowl. Keep a cup or so of (around 250ml) water to one side then return the water to the boil for the pasta.

Put the saffron in a small bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of the broccoli water - set aside to soak.

In a large frying or sauté pan fry the finely chopped shallot in the oil over a medium heat and when they have softened and started to colour add the chopped anchovies and cook for another minute or so until the anchovies have melted into the oil and shallots.

Add the red pepper flakes, tomato puree, and a cup of the reserved broccoli water, mix well and bring to the boil.

The water for the pasta would probably have returned to the boil by now so cook the pasta for at least 2 minutes less than the packet instructions - i.e less cooked than al dente.

Add the pine nuts to the sauce and simmer for a few more minutes before adding the saffron.

Let the sauce simmer for a minute or so and then tip in the drained broccoli. Mix together carefully but thoroughly.

By now the pasta should be cooked as per instructions above. Drain, mix in thoroughly with the sauce (season carefully with salt & pepper as needed), cover and turn off the heat. Leave for 5-10 minutes to let the sauce infuse the pasta. Serve with grated pecorino: as good quality as possible, or leave without.

Note: It has since come to my attention that “broccoli” in Italian recipes frequently refers to Romanesco broccoli which is likely what this recipe should be made with. Romanesco Broccoli is in fact the lime green cauliflower with pointy Fibonacci spiral florets. As I have just ordered some in my next veg box delivery I'll need to make again soon with the real thing  - I'll add some pics here after.

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