Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You say paste, I say PESTO! (with my best Italian accent)

You will notice a few recurring themes in my cooking.  Pasta might just be the most common one.  It's easy, quick and a serious crowd pleaser in this house of majority young children.  Because we eat pasta so often (3 times a week at least) I usually buy in bulk from Speerville Mills and get 5 kg of organic "veggie spirals" which are made with vegetable juices for added nutrition (and colour!).  The kids don't know or care, but I like knowing that the red colour in my food actually comes from beets and not a numbered bottle somewhere along the line. 
Anyway, once again I bring to you a pasta dish that can be made in 20 minutes, and that also uses Jen's amazing broccoli.  Is it just me or does her broccoli have wayyy more flavour than any other, ever?  I'd even use the word 'strong' to describe it, which doesn't usually come to mind with that sad broccoli I get at the grocery store in the winter.  Broccoli is a universal favorite here and generally gets snapped up the minute it comes in the door (with some dip of course-the Lighthouse brand organic ranch dressing is soooo good! REAL chunks of tiny onion!), but I managed to tuck some away for this recipe, that I've played with a few times and haven't really failed at yet aaand it uses the whole head of broccoli, not just the florets.

It's a pretty close adaptation of another Jamie Oliver recipe, with a few changes.
I call it Broccoli Pesto Pasta.  (I'm no linguist, but I want to believe that the word pesto doesn't have anything to do with basil and is rather some italian root word for paste?)  So maybe I should call it Broccoli Paste Pasta.  Not quite the same eh?)

  • A couple small heads, or a big head of broccoli, separated into stem(s) and florets.
  • 1 can of anchovies OR a large squeeze of anchovy paste (I finally found some at the 'new' Sobeys in Charlottetown). It would sound more appetizing to call it 'anchovy pesto' wouldn't it? ha!
  • good pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic (or more if you like)
  • Jamie Oliver recommends heaped tbsp. capers, but they aren't an ingredient I keep on hand, and I didn't miss them, but if you've got 'em, toss some in!
Blend the broccoli stems and these ingredients together, setting the florets aside for now.  The food processor should make a nice paste (or pesto!) with this.  The can of anchovies would have oil in it, so I added a good glug of olive oil when I used the anchovy paste instead.Once you have a nice paste, add it to a good sized pan on the stove with another good glug of olive oil and a splash of water to loosen it up.  Heat on medium while the pasta finishes cooking.  (If you've got thyme around add some of that to the pan as well.)
At the last few minutes of pasta cooking time, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain it all, but keep a little of the pasta cooking water if you can, in case you need it to loosen up the pesto.
Add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pesto pan and toss. 
Add a really good pile of parmesan cheese and toss some more, adding that cooking water if need be. 
I've got this new obsession with bread crumbs and I found adding a handful of fine breadcrumbs during the last toss really added some nice texture.


I've made this without the anchovies and the capers and it was still quite good, but not nearly as good as when I included our fishy friends.  Bacon would be a fine substitute if you're not ready to get on the anchovy train just yet.
 The key is the garlic, chili flakes and parm.  The broccoli has so much flavour that everything else is really secondary.



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