Broccoli Bolognese with Orecchiette

I have two versions of one of my favorite classic Italian dishes to share. This is the broccoli-loaded “healthier” version.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Adam Rapoport. I increased the amount of broccoli, modified the proportions, and used sweet Italian sausage. It was a quick and tasty weeknight meal.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of broccoli florets
  • coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 12 to 14 ounces fresh sweet or hot Italian sausage (about 3-4 links), casings removed
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 14 to 16 ounces orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

  1. Cook broccoli in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a colander and let cool (save pot of water for cooking pasta).
  2. Chop broccoli into small pieces; set aside.
  3. Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook garlic, shaking skillet occasionally, until it starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add sausage and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and break up meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up sausage, until it is browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes.
  5. Bring reserved pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until barely al dente, about 9 minutes (set a timer for 3 minutes less than the package instructions; it will cook more in the skillet).
  6. Meanwhile, ladle about ½ cup pasta cooking liquid from pot into skillet with sausage and add blanched broccoli. Keep mixture at a low simmer, stirring often and mashing with spoon to break up sausage even more, until pasta is finished cooking.
  7. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer pasta to skillet, then ladle in ½ cup pasta water. Cook, stirring, until pasta absorbs most of the liquid and is just al dente, about 4 minutes.
  8. Add butter and stir until melted, then transfer pasta to a large bowl.
  9. Gradually add 1½ oz. Parmesan, tossing constantly until you have a glossy, emulsified sauce.
  10. Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes and a drizzle of oil.

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Sheet-Pan Spicy Roasted Broccoli Pasta

I have a few broccoli pasta recipes to share. I’m always buying the 3 pound bag of broccoli florets at Costco when I’m on a break from my CSA vegetables. 😉

This first dish is one of the Most Popular Recipes of 2017 from New York Times Cooking. I’m surprised that I didn’t see it when it was first published- especially because it’s a sheet pan dish! Although it has the ingredients typical of a pasta casserole, more of the broccoli and toppings get crispy by the increased surface area exposed to direct heat by cooking it on a sheet pan.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the amount of broccoli and used Gigli pasta. We ate it with a huge green salad. Quick, easy, and tasty. It would be even more incredible if it was topped with fresh ricotta. Next time!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 ½ pounds broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
  • tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • teaspoon coarse salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 12 ounces chiocciole, penne, or other tube-shaped pasta (I used Gigli pasta)
  • cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • cup panko bread crumbs
  • finely grated zest from 1 large lemon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces best quality, whole milk ricotta
  • fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together broccoli, 3 T olive oil, cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes.
  3. Roast until tender and browned at the edges, 18 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and set oven to broil.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together Parmesan, panko, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the black pepper.
  6. Toss cooked pasta with broccoli on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then dollop with ricotta.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmesan mix, drizzle generously with oil, and broil until topping is crisped and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with lemon juice to taste, and serve.

One Year Ago: Fresh Ricotta

Two Years Ago: Spaghetti Pizza

Three Years Ago: Penne with Radicchio

Four Years Ago: Pasta Alla Norma with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Five Years Ago: Movie Night Pizza

Leek, Tomato, & Farro Soup with Pancetta

This hearty soup had more of a stew-like consistency. We ate it with a huge green salad and sliced sourdough baguette. It was an incredible meal on a cold night. We devoured it. 😉

This recipe was adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. I doubled the recipe, decreased the pancetta, increased the garlic, used whole San Marzano tomatoes, and added stock and water to adjust the consistency. Great.

Yield: Serves 10-12

  • 8 oz pancetta, diced
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 leeks (white and light green parts only), cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 large celery stalks
  • 2 large carrots (I used purple and orange rainbow carrots)
  • 6-7 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for serving
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 17-18 oz (about 3 cups) Farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10-minute Farro)
  • 2 28-oz cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, with juice, diced
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-3 cups water or chicken stock, as desired to adjust consistency
  • coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add the pancetta and cook until it is well browned and crisped, 5 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a  paper-towel-lined plate. (Leave the rendered fat in the pot.)
  3. Add the olive oil to the pot, stir in the leeks, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, 7 to 10 minutes; stir in the garlic for the last minute.
  4. Add the thyme and rosemary sprigs, farro, tomatoes, salt, and a generous grind of black pepper.
  5. Bring to a simmer and cook until the farro is almost tender, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the pancetta and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more.
  7. Adjust the consistency with water or stock, as desired.
  8. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, discarding the herb sprigs. Top with shredded cheese and a sprinkling of thyme or parsley.

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Spaghetti Pie with Wild Mushrooms & Spinach

This is a cheesy and delicious vegetarian comfort food dish. The pie was inspired by roadside diner spaghetti sandwiches in New Zealand! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Gail Simmons. I increased the amount of garlic and spinach and modified the baking time for a convection oven. I used a combination of cremini and shiitake mushrooms. Wonderful.

Yield: serves 8 to 10

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection. Tightly wrap the outside of 
a 9-inch springform pan with foil and brush the inside with butter or spray with cooking oil.
  2. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti 
until barely al dente; drain.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until sizzling, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Scrape into a bowl.
  5. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Incorporate all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Scrape spinach into the mushrooms and let cool slightly.
  7. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk.
  8. Add the spaghetti, mushroom mixture, 3 cheeses, sage, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper; mix well.
  9. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  10. Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes in a convection oven or 35 minutes in a standard oven, until bubbling and the top 
is golden.
  11. Let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the ring, cut 
the pie into wedges and serve.

I’m sharing my pie at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #196, co-hosted by Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook and Antonia @ Zoale.com. Enjoy!

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Cacio e Pepe

This is a dream quick dish for me. Cheese and pepper… two of my favorite ingredients. This classic Italian recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit.

I have made it on a few occasions using both Barilla bucatini and DeCecco linguine fine, par cooking the pasta for 5 minutes. It is wonderful served with a simple green salad or roasted vegetables. Love it.

Yield: Serves 2 to 3

  • coarse salt
  • 8 oz pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, linguine fini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 T unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry. I added all of the remaining pasta water.)
  5. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

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Eggplant Rollatini

Eggplant Rollatini is my absolute favorite dish to order when we go to Little Italy in the Bronx. Our family tradition is to go to the same restaurant each time we visit, Dominick’s, for delicious family-style Italian food. This dish is only served on Sundays- and only while it lasts. I’ve been disappointed on a couple of occasions when it has run out before we have been able to get in our order.

Making this dish was a fabulous way to use my gorgeous CSA eggplant! This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I didn’t peel the eggplants, reduced the amount of prosciutto, and increased the casserole baking time. The prosciutto can easily be omitted to make a vegetarian version. Wonderful.

For the Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • one 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, cut with a knife or kitchen shears
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

For the Eggplant and Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled (if desired) and cut lengthwise into twelve to sixteen 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 5 to 8 oz sliced prosciutto, optional
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the oil, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring until the garlic lightly sizzles but does not brown, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over medium heat for at least 20 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.

To Make the Eggplant Rollatini:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  2. Shred enough mozzarella to measure 1/2 cup and add it to the bowl; reserve the remaining mozzarella.
  3. Add the egg, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  4. Heat an oven to 400 degrees, preferably set to convection roast.
  5. Brush the eggplant slices with oil on one side and place oil-side up on two parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
  6. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices halfway through cooking.
  7. Remove sheet pans from the oven and let the eggplant cool for about 10 minutes. (Keep oven on!)
  8. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture on each piece of eggplant.
  9. Top with a slice of prosciutto, if using.
  10. Roll the eggplant into a rollatini. Repeat with the remaining slices and filling.
  11. Coat the bottom of a deep baking dish with some of the tomato sauce.
  12. Place the rollatini in the dish, nestling them close to each other.
  13. When the pan is filled, put some sauce on the top of the eggplants and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  14. Finally, cut slices from the remaining fresh mozzarella and place on top of each rollatini.
  15. Bake until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and lightly brown in spots, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  16. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving with slices of Italian bread.

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Marcella Hazan’s Butter, Tomato, & Onion Sauce

I made this sauce when I was still swimming in gorgeous fresh tomatoes. Because the sauce is so simple, it really showcases them. That being said, the quality of the tomatoes used is very important.

There are many debates about this famous sauce online. Much of the discussion is about whether or not butter (and its richness) should be incorporated into a tomato sauce. My vote is “YES!” 🙂 After tasting it, I think most would agree with me. Other discussions revolve around dissatisfaction with the results compared to the “hype.” Comments about the sauce being soupy and underwhelming may stem from using lower quality tomatoes or an abbreviated cooking time. We loved it.

My intention was to freeze the sauce to enjoy it during the winter, but it was too delicious to wait. The debate about this sauce in my house was about what type of pasta to serve it with! 😉 My husband won with his choice of pappardelle. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Hazan Family Favorites: Beloved Italian Recipes by Guiliano Hazan, via Epicurious.com. I increased the cooking time and reserved the onions after removing them from the tomato mixture (I pureed and seasoned them to serve as a spread on toasted baguette slices). Using fresh instead of canned tomatoes may have altered the total cooking time. I more than doubled the cooking time in order to achieve my desired consistency. I also pureed the finished sauce. Addictive!

Yield: Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (or 3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to finish
  1. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them: Score the base of each tomato and place it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove the tomato with a wire strainer and peel off the skin.
  2. Coarsely chop the fresh or canned tomatoes.
  3. Trim both ends of the onion; peel it and cut it in half lengthwise.
  4. Put the tomatoes, onion, butter, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to a slow but steady simmer. Cook, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are no longer watery and the sauce has reduced, about 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size and shape of the pot. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.) The sauce is done when the butter has separated from the tomatoes and there is no remaining liquid.
  5. Puree the finished sauce, if desired.
  6. Prepare one pound of pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions.
  7. When you toss pasta with the sauce, add about 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Note: If the sauce is doubled, the cooking time will increase.

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