Creamy Broccoli Pasta

Growing up, my mom frequently made what we referred to as “white spaghetti” (aka spaghetti without red sauce!). The pasta was coated with garlicky olive oil and topped with crispy garlic slices, broccoli florets, and Parmesan cheese. Classic. 🙂

This version is from Old World Italian: Recipes & Secrets from Our Travels in Italy by Mimi Thorisson. The recipe is included in the “Roman Pastas” section of this beautiful book. It is a little bit more indulgent than my mom’s rendition because it contains more cheese as well as heavy cream. I loved that the broccoli was chopped and incorporated into the creamy sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 large head broccoli and stems (about 1 pound or 450g), cut into small florets and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound (500g) dried spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 garlic clove(s), minced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups (115g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the broccoli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Remove with a kitchen spider or slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the water boiling to cook the pasta.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups (500ml) of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the empty pot and set aside.
  4. Chop the onion and mince the garlic in a food processor. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  8. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Pour the cream over the mixture and cook for 15 seconds. Remove from heat.
  10. Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor and process until roughly creamy.
  11. Add the broccoli sauce and a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water to the pot of pasta and set the pot over medium heat. Cook, tossing frequently, adding more pasta water as needed to adjust the consistency, until the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  12. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl, if desired. Scatter the grated Parmesan on top and serve immediately.

Pesto-ish Risotto

Every fall, black swallowtail caterpillars takeover my backyard basil plants. I needed to make this basil-loaded dish before sharing my plants with them. :/

This risotto was rich, creamy, and hearty. The absolute highlight of the finished dish was the crispy garlic and pan-toasted pine nut topping. Loved it.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christian Reynoso. I adapted the original recipe to prepare it in a pressure cooker. Easy and elegant.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 5 to 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (loosely packed) basil leaves (from 1 large bunch), torn into 1″ pieces
  • shaved or finely grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 5 or 7 quart pressure cooker over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until grains are partially translucent, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cloves of garlic slices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add all of the unheated stock; stir.
  5. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat.
  6. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes.
  7. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the pot under running cold water. (I used a quick release method.)
  8. Carefully open the lid, being careful of the steam. The stock should be almost completely absorbed but the rice will be covered with a thick layer of milky broth. (more stock can be added at this point if the risotto appears too thick)
  9. Meanwhile, cook the remaining 6 cloves of garlic slices, olive oil, and pine nuts in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to turn golden around edges. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring often, until pine nuts and garlic are golden, about 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat; stir in turmeric and season with pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  11. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan rind, if using, into the risotto. Season with salt, to taste.
  12. Stir the freshly squeezed lemon juice into the risotto and add freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  13. Stir basil into risotto.
  14. Ladle risotto, discarding the Parmesan rind, into shallow bowls. Top with garlic–pine nut oil and Parmesan. Serve.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash & Greens

My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.

Yield: Serves 6

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
  • 4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
  • 8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
  • 1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
  7. When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
  10. Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
  11. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
  12. Top with minced cilantro and serve.

Skillet Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Broccoli & Orzo

My husband and I enjoyed this skillet dinner. The kids had mixed reviews! My son thought that it was over-seasoned and my daughter declared that she wouldn’t eat bone-in chicken thighs. (We are quite used to boneless, skinless chicken thighs in my house.) It’s clearly hard to please the two teenagers in my house. 😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Aaron Hutcherson. I modified the method and proportions, incorporated red onion, used a Meyer lemon, and substituted chicken stock for broth.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), patted dry
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Meyer lemon or 1/2 large lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into wedges
  • approximately 1 pound broccoli florets, cut into smaller pieces if large (about 6+ cups)
  • 8 ounces dried orzo (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for serving, optional
  1. Season chicken thighs on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron or stainless steel), heat olive oil over medium-high. (I used a large, shallow, enameled cast iron pot.)
  3. Cook the chicken, skin-side down, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and add butter and lemon slices; cook until the lemons release their juices and start to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the chicken.
  5. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the red onion wedges and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the broccoli, orzo, thyme, garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to the onions in the pan and stir to coat.
  7. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is lightly toasted and the broccoli is bright green, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Deglaze with the wine and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Add the stock and lemon slices to the skillet, then add the chicken thighs, skin-side up, along with any liquid from the plate.
  10. Cover the skillet and continue cooking until the orzo is tender, most of the liquid is absorbed, and the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F internal temperature), 13 to 15 minutes.
  11. Serve warm garnished with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Note: If you want to add a little texture and crunch to the dish, uncover and continue to cook until browned and crisp on the bottom, 3 to 5 additional minutes (after Step 10).

Sausage, Beans & Greens Pasta

This is a great end of summer ~ early fall dish. I loved that it gobbled up my CSA collards and chard. I really love any dish that transforms greens into a crowd-pleaser! 🙂 The mashed beans made the sauce creamy.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz, via epicurious.com. I used garbanzo beans and a mix of collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach. I also substituted sweet Italian sausage and modified the proportions. The fried rosemary garnish was essential.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1/3 cup (5 T) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 8 to 10 oz sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 3 sweet sausages)
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas or cannellini beans, rinsed, patted dry
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 16 oz (1 pound) paccheri, rigatoni, or other large tubular pasta (I used pennoni pasta)
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 to 10 cups (lightly packed) cut or torn escarole, kale, or Swiss chard leaves (I used 1/4-inch ribbons stemmed and halved collard greens, 1/2-inch ribbons stemmed Swiss chard (stems cut into 1/4-inch pieces and reserved), & baby spinach)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  3. Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a shallow bowl.
  4. Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with a spoon, until browned in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage.
  5. Add wine to pot (and add the Swiss chard stems, if using), bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
  7. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add the greens and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until the greens are wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes.
  8. Add another 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add 1/2 cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce.
  9. Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.
  10. Divide pasta among bowls or place in a large serving dish. Crumble fried rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Sheet-Pan Potato Gnocchi with Tomatoes, Arugula, & Basil

One more summer sheet-pan dinner! 🙂

I recently made a delicious skillet gnocchi dish developed by Ali Slagle for The New York Times which was very reminiscent of this dish. Apparently, Ali Slagle inspired Sarah Jampel to create this version for Bon Appétit.

I loved that this variation incorporated arugula- one of my favorites- and coated it with a dressing made with roasted garlic. It was a quick, easy, and tasty summer meal. Great.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges (I cut it into 8 wedges)
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 4 cups (2 pints) cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 17.6-oz. package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling, if desired
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 cups baby arugula (I used 3 cups of my CSA arugula)
  • 1 cup basil leaves, large leaves torn
  • 2 oz Parmesan, shaved (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425°. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Toss onion, garlic, tomatoes, gnocchi, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt on a rimmed baking sheet to coat. Season generously with pepper and toss again to combine.
  4. Roast, stirring once or twice, until gnocchi are golden and starting to crisp, most of the tomatoes have burst, and onion is golden, 25–30 minutes.
  5. Remove garlic from baking sheet, peel, and place in a small bowl. Mash with 1/4 tsp salt (garlic should be quite soft). (I used 4 cloves of garlic.)
  6. Whisk in lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into the mashed garlic. Season dressing with pepper and more salt, if needed.
  7. Add arugula, basil, and Parmesan to baking sheet and drizzle dressing over; toss to combine.
  8. Divide among plates and drizzle with a little more oil, if desired.

Summer Bucatini with Buttery Zucchini Sauce

I love trying new ways to use summer zucchini. Making pasta sauce out of grated zucchini is absolute genius! This dish gobbled up all of the zucchini that I received in my CSA share- amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used bucatini (our favorite) instead of spaghetti. I also modified the proportions and method. It was a vegetarian crowd-pleaser. Super quick to prepare too.

Yield: Serves 5 to 6

  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for pasta water, and to taste
  • 16 ounces (1 pound, 450 grams) bucatini, cooked al dente (I used De Cecco)(can substitute with spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccine)
  • 2 cups (470 ml) pasta water, reserved
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds (about 1100 to 1300 grams) zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated (I used 3 large zucchini- about 8 cups grated)
  • 12 tablespoons (170 grams, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 generous cup (90 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (about 2 large handfuls)
  1. Mince the garlic cloves in a food processor. Set aside.
  2. Coarsely grate the zucchini in a food processor, emptying the bowl as necessary. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Add the garlic, stirring it into the butter for one minute.
  5. Add the zucchini, salt, and red pepper. Cook the zucchini, stirring from time to time, for 13 to 15 minutes. It will first let off a puddle liquid, the liquid will cook off, and the zucchini will become soft and concentrated. If the zucchini begins to brown, reduce the heat slightly.
  6. Stir frequently for 2 more minutes until it reaches an almost spreadable consistency.
  7. Meanwhile, boil your pasta in well-salted water until it’s 1 minute shy of fully cooked. Before you drain it, reserve 2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside. (I cooked my pasta for 9 minutes.)
  8. Pour in 1 cup of the reserved pasta water into the zucchini and butter mixture scraping up any browned bits.
  9. Add the drained pasta, and cook together for 2 minutes. Use tongs to pull up the zucchini butter sauce into the pasta strands, tossing frequently, and adding some or all of the remaining pasta water as needed to loosen.
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
  11. Incorporate a generous half of the parmesan and basil and mix, then transfer to a serving bowl, if desired. (I served the pasta from my cast iron pan!)
  12. Garnish with remaining parmesan and basil. Serve.

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