Beautiful broccoli shines in simple pasta dish


The farmers market continues to have a variety of impossible-to-resist produce — and I keep buying it. A few weeks ago, I picked up some beautiful broccoli from one of the booths. I wanted to make those most of it, so I started looking through my cookbooks for a suitable recipe.

Since it was a weeknight after work, I wanted something I could make in 30 minutes or less. I decided to try another recipe from the “Five-ingredient Fridays” chapter of Curtis Stone’s “What’s for Dinner?” The recipe, Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil, called for ingredients I had on hand and didn’t require a lot of cleanup. After about 20 minutes, I ended up with a hearty, delicious vegetarian dish that was great comfort food after a long day at work. The broccoli flavor really came through when paired with a simple brown butter sauce, and the pine nuts added a nice crunch that provided great contrast to the the pasta.

Though I’m not a vegetarian, sometimes it’s just nice to make something that allows vegetables to be the star of the meal. I’m looking forward to making more dinners with more finds from the farmers market.

13 ounces broccoli florets with 1-inch stems (about 6 cups)
1 pound orecchiette
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until bright green. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the broccoli out of the water, draining it well, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Return the water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orecchiette.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and stir for about 2 minutes, or until it has turned hazelnut brown. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until hot.

Add the pasta to the broccoli mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the basil, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

BLT Linguine

I was feeling ambitious last weekend. I had already decided to make BLT Linguine for dinner but, when I went to check to see whether I had all the ingredients, I noticed I didn’t have any linguine. I considered going to the store, but then decided I was up to the challenge of making linguine from scratch. In “High Flavor, Low Labor,” Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch says pasta is easy to make. I decided to see if he was right. It turns out making the pasta dough is easy, but the shaping process is challenging if you’re doing it by hand.

The second batch of pasta

The first batch I made turned out way too thick after it was boiled. I thought I had rolled it out thin enough, but it bulked up considerably during the cooking process. It was unpleasant to eat and I ended up throwing it out. The second time around, I cut the dough into larger sections after rolling it out, rolled out each section, then cut each section into strips and rolled the strips out. It was a lot of work and the pasta still ended up slightly thicker than I wanted it to be, but this batch was much better than the first. I have a tall kitchen table, and I’m an average height, but even kneeling on one of the chairs didn’t give me enough leverage to roll the dough out as thin as it should have been.

I’ve only made pasta one other time, and that was a few years ago when I made gnocchi, which is a long process, but completely worth it. For this recipe, making pasta by hand was more trouble than it was worth. Unless you have a pasta maker, I’d recommend using store-bought pasta. However, if you’re feeling ambitious, I’ve included the instructions to make linguine.

BLT Linguine is easy to make for a weeknight dinner. Instead of sauce, it calls for cream cheese, which might be off-putting to some, but it works. For a lower-fat version of this recipe, Hirsch recommends substituting Greek-style yogurt for the cream cheese and prosciutto for the bacon.

10 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch scallions, whites and light green sections, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 12-ounce package fresh linguine, or one recipe linguine (below)
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into small chunks
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. While the water heats, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the scallions and tomatoes, then sauté for 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to a bowl, draining any excess fat.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1⁄4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the saucepan.

Add the cream cheese and half of the reserved cooking water to the pasta. Toss until the cheese is melted and forms a creamy sauce.

Add three-quarters of the bacon and tomato mixture, then toss again. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more of the reserved cooking water. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta among four plates, then top each serving with some of the remaining bacon and tomato mixture.

2 cups flour
3 eggs

Knead eggs into flour until ball of dough forms. Put bowl over ball of dough and let rest for 30 minutes. Roll dough into a thin sheet and cut into strips. Put strips of pasta into a pot of salted, boiling water.