Many years ago, I had a roommate from Italy who prepared this dish for me. I didn’t cook much for myself then, but this dish was so simple and tasty that it inspired me. We now eat orecchiette with broccoli at least once a month. I still love it for its simplicity and taste, but now I also appreciate it for its inexpensive ingredients. Orecchiette pasta looks sort of like curled discs or ears (orecchio means ear in Italian, so I’m told). It is readily available in our local big chain grocery store. If you can’t find it in yours, you may substitute another type of pasta. We didn’t have any orecchiette tonight, but we have lots of fusilli (thanks, Posey!), so I used that instead.
Orecchiette with Broccoli
Yield: 6-8 servings.
Note: the amounts listed below are really just guidelines and are equivalent to how I make the dish. This recipe is very easily adapted to suit your individual taste.
- 1 or 2 heads of broccoli, with stems
- 1 lb orecchiette pasta (or similar)
- 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (use more or less, depending on your taste)
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 8 anchovy fillets (you may use anchovy paste instead — maybe 1 Tbsp)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (again, use more or less depending on your taste)
- 1/2 – 1 cup water from the cooking pasta
- salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare the broccoli by cutting off the head, breaking it apart into small florets. Peel the stem of the broccoli (I just cut the tough parts off leaving the more fleshy inside bits intact). Slice the stem into slices no more than 1/4 inch thick.
Cook pasta in boiling, lightly salted water according to the directions on the package (about 10 minutes). During the last few minutes of cooking, add the broccoli florets (not the stems) to the pot. Drain (note, however, that you’ll need to reserve about 1/2 – 1 cup of the pasta water for use below).
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the butter. Add the anchovy fillets and stir gently. The anchovies will start to break apart and sort of melt into the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let cook gently about a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic (turn the heat down, if necessary). Add the broccoli stem pieces and saute gently. Using a mug, scoop about half a cup of boiling water out of the pasta pot (by now, the orecchiette should have been cooking at least 5 minutes and will have flavored the water a bit). Add the water to the pan with the broccoli stems. The water will help the broccoli stems cook more quickly and evenly. If you have a lid, you may put it on the pan to speed up the process even more. When the broccoli stems are just tender, turn off the heat and add the drained pasta and florets. Toss together with the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and Parmesan cheese. Add a little more pasta water to the pan if you think the pasta needs more “sauce.” Season with salt and pepper, if you’d like. The pasta may not need any more salt because the anchovies provide a salty taste. Serve with a bit more grated Parmesan and enjoy.
I have also made the recipe with leftover rotisserie chicken and used chicken broth instead of pasta water. I cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add it to the pan with the broccoli stems toward the end of cooking just to let the chicken heat through. This is also very tasty; in fact, I think Mark prefers it this way.
If you’re wary of anchovies, like many people, please don’t disregard this recipe. Anchovies cooked in this way take on a very mild flavor. In fact, if you didn’t cook it yourself, you’d probably never guess there were anchovies in the dish at all.
Several people pointed out to me that I forgot to put a tally for the cost of this meal. Many apologies. Here it is now:
anchovies: $1.33 (2/3 of a $1.99 tin)
pasta: FREE (my aunt recently gave us lots of fusilli pasta, which is why I used it in this recipe)
garlic and red pepper flakes: $.50 (that’s a guess, but it certainly didn’t cost more than $.50)
Parmesan cheese: $.76 (about 1/10 of a block that cost $7.64)
olive oil and butter: $.75 (again, that’s a guess)
Grand total: $4.84
Cost per serving (estimating 7 servings): $.69
Wow. That’s incredible. Of course, if we’d had to buy the pasta it would have been about $2.00 more total, but that would still keep the cost per serving under $1.00.