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.

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.

Italian Piadina with Ricotta, Prosciutto & Arugula Topping

According to the original recipe, in Romagna, in Northern Italy, piadine are often served with cured meats, greens and fresh cheeses that soften in the warmth of the freshly cooked bread. They are folded in half and eaten like a sandwich. This version is based on the classic presentation. Yum.

The recipe was adapted from MilkStreetTV.com, contributed by Erica Bruce. I bought lard for the first time in my life to make this flatbread! Christopher Kimball convinced me that lard was the secret to both the optimal texture and flavor in this wonderful bread. In the article, they found that when using lard “the piadine were tender with just the right chew and (had) a deeper, richer background flavor. (They) also tested vegetable shortening, which gave the same supple dough but lacked a bit of flavor. Lard was the clear winner.” The flatbread was perfect.

This special sandwich was a fabulous and fast summer dinner. We hope to try piadine with all sorts of other toppings in the near future. It was dangerously easy to make. 🙂

Yield: 4 flatbread sandwiches (4 servings)

For the Piadina:

  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 311 grams (2 cups) bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 63 grams (5 T or 1/3 cup) lard, at room temperature
  1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of the water and the yogurt.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds.
  3. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. With the processor running, add the yogurt mixture.
  5. With the processor still running, add the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute. If the dough doesn’t ball up in the processor, gather it together and briefly knead it by hand.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. (I used a kitchen scale.)
  7. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
  8. Using a rolling pin, form each dough ball into a 10-inch round. (The round will be approximately 1/16-inch thick.) Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.
  9. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes.
  10. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. (I cooked mine for a little less than 1 minute.)
  11. Using tongs, flip and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat.

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/2 tsp), or more, to taste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto, at room temperature
  • baby arugula (about 1 cup per person) (we also used baby spinach)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice to the ricotta, or reserve to toss with the arugula (or spinach).
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over half of each piadina, then top with 2 slices of prosciutto.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the lemon juice (if not in the ricotta mixture) and a pinch of salt. Mound on top of the prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle with oil, if desired, and fold. (I omitted the oil.)

Farro with Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto & Spinach

I love a dish involving warm dressing and wilted greens. I am also in love with farro- and pesto. This full-flavored vegetarian dish was made for me! Loved it. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I used homemade pesto, Campari tomatoes, and several of the modifications and options that were suggested in the original recipe for ingredient substitutions.

It was incredible as a summer dish but could easily be served in any season with all of the possible variations. It can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature. The dish could also be topped with a protein such as grilled chicken, scallops, or shrimp, if desired. We ate it for dinner with roasted CSA vegetables and a green salad. It would also be lovely for a special lunch or brunch. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4

  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup farro, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s “10 minute” Farro)
  • 2 pints (4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes or 2 pounds of Campari tomatoes (12-14 tomatoes)
  • 1 red onion, peeled, quartered and cut into 1-inch wedges keeping the root intact (I cut a large red onion into 8ths)(can substitute shallots)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the farro
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) store-bought or homemade pesto, plus more to taste (recipe below)
  • 1 lemon, zested (about 1 tablespoon) and juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 packed cups baby spinach, arugula, Swiss chard (stemmed & chopped), or baby kale
  • 1 (4 oz) ball fresh mozzarella or burrata, torn into chunks, or 1/2 cup ricotta salata or feta, crumbled, optional (I used 4 oz crumbled feta)
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves and tender stems, chiffonade or roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the farro and adjust the heat to maintain a medium boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, until tender and not too chewy, about 10 to 30 minutes. (I used Trader Joe’s “10-minute” Farro which cooked in 10 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan, combine the tomatoes and onion wedges with the oil, making sure everything is well coated and glistening, then season with salt, pepper and the red-pepper flakes. Roast until the tomatoes blister and slightly deflate, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. When the farro is done, drain, then pour into a serving bowl or back into the pot. Toss with some olive oil, then mix in the pesto.
  5. Add the lemon zest and juice, then stir in the spinach (or other greens). Set aside to cool slightly.
  6. Scrape the onions, tomatoes and their juices into the farro; season with salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Add the cheese, if using, then garnish with herbs and serve.

For the Pesto: (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • coarse salt
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 T toasted pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
  1. Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
  3. Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. (Sometimes I add a little bit of stock instead to achieve the same result.)
  4. Stir in the cheese.

The pesto recipe is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. The amounts can be modified to reduce the volume; only 1/4 cup of pesto is used in the farro dish.

One-Pot Crispy Gnocchi with Burst Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

This is a variation of one of my favorite quick dishes that also uses store-bought gnocchi as a shortcut. It is less spicy which pleased my husband. 😉 The cheesiness of this version definitely made it a crowd-pleaser.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. It was the perfect dinner to make and serve after making cupcakes all afternoon with my daughter. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 (12- to 18-ounce) packages shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups (2 pints) small tomatoes, such as cherry, grape or Sungold
  • 4 to 6 T thinly sliced (chiffonade) or torn basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 8 to 9 ounces (8 slices) fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  1. Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
  2. In a large (12-inch) skillet on the stovetop, heat enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  3. Add half the gnocchi to the pan, breaking up any that are stuck together. Cover with a lid or baking sheet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi and olive oil.
  5. Add the butter to the skillet and cook over medium-high, stirring often, until golden-brown and toasty, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper, reducing the heat slightly if necessary to avoid scorching.
  7. Add the tomatoes and 3 tablespoons water and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and the liquid has slightly thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Smash the tomatoes as they burst to help them along.
  8. Add the seared gnocchi and basil, stir to coat, then shake into an even layer.
  9. Top with the mozzarella and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  10. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes. (I set my oven to 500 degrees Broil+Max.)
  11. Top with more basil, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper as desired.

Venetian Rice & Peas (Risi e Bisi)

In Venice, this classic dish is traditionally served on April 25th, St. Mark’s Day. This version was adapted from Michela Tasca, owner of Ca’ de Memi Farm and Bed and Breakfast in Piombino Dese, outside of Venice, Italy, via 177MilkStreet.com, contributed by Diane Unger.

The recipe is similar to risotto in its cooking method and because it incorporates arborio rice, but this dish is much more fluid and soupy. It is definitely for pea lovers! Whole peas and puréed peas are mixed into the creamy rice. I loved the vibrant, beautiful color of the finished dish.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, half thinly sliced and half finely chopped
  • 1 medium celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup frozen, 1 cup thawed & at room temperature)
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cubed or finely chopped (I used uncured pancetta)
  • 4 T salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, divided
  • 1 cup arborio or vialone nano rice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. In a medium pot, combine the carrot, sliced onion (reserve the chopped onion), celery, fennel seeds, stock (or broth), and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables have softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, draining as much of the liquid as possible. (It’s okay if some of the fennel seeds remain in the pot.) (I used a Vitamix.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock to the blender along with the parsley and the still-frozen peas. (The frozen peas cool the mixture so that it remains a brilliant green.) Leave the remaining stock in the pot, covered, so that it remains warm. (I kept the pot over low heat.)
  4. Blend the solids, parsley, frozen peas, and cup of stock until the mixture is completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside. (You should have about 3 cups of purée.)
  5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved chopped onion, pancetta, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and pancetta are lightly browned and the pancetta fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. (I used a low, wide, enameled cast iron pot.)
  6. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with fat, about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1 cup of warm stock. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Ladle in additional stock to barely cover the rice, about 1 cup at a time, and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes per addition.
  9. Repeat the addition of stock, about 4 or 5 times, until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes.
  11. Add the thawed, room temperature peas and the reserved purée; stir into heated through, about 1 minute.
  12. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter; stir until melted.
  13. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  14. Serve sprinkled with additional grated Parmesan, as desired.

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