And who am I to fight the broccoli love? I started making this… well, I’m going to call it pesto but it’s less a pounded mixture of raw herbs, garlic and cheese and more a tender broccoli sauce. Anyway, I started making it over the summer. It was loosely inspired by this dish I saw on the most stunning blog, one that is in fact dangerous for me to look at because I immediately start to question everything: Why don’t we live in the French countryside? Why haven’t I ever biked home with a cluster of warm-from-the-oven baguettes prepared in the ancient style in my wicker basket? Why don’t I have any heliciculturalist (escargot farmers, of course) for neighbors and why don’t those yelling people down the hall (my actual neighbors) ever bring me freshly-dug morels? Alex, are you reading along right now? Honey, why don’t we have 14 dogs? It’s gotten to the point where I greet a new post on the blog by peeking nervously through my fingers the way you would when watching a scary movie because I’m so terrified that it will be the post that breaks my will to live a single moment longer as we previously happily did, that all there will be left to do is pack this place up, and holler “Thanks anyway for the morels!” at the yelling neighbors door as we head for the stairs/street/taxi/airport/new life, one with backyard plum trees.
Ahem. Maybe I got a little carried away. We were talking about broccoli pesto, yes? I make this with steamed broccoli, a bit of onion and garlic cooked until sweet in butter, and a drizzle of heavy cream. I then blend this mixture until it’s chopped finely enough to be sauce-like, then toss it with pasta and some of its reserved cooking water. The parmesan comes at the end, and you should shower the whole bowl with it; it is the seasoning, punch, and highlight of the dish. This preparation is mellow and wonderful and total toddler bait around here, which means that it’s parent-delighting bait because I know that the dish is matched ounce for ounce in pasta and broccoli. Oh, and you know, grown-ups don’t mind it much either but with us in mind, I’d use more garlic and a good bit of red pepper flakes too. And we’d eat it with wine. And we’d watch out the window as the yellowing leaves whoosh down the busy avenue below and, at least briefly, put thoughts of other idylls aside.
One year ago: Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower With Yogurt
Two years ago: Single Crust Plum and Apple Pie
Three years ago: Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant
Four years ago: Balsamic-Glazed Sweet and Sour Cippoline and Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
Five years ago: Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
Six years ago: Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette
Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto
Note: The sauce is gluten-free and could be used with a gluten-free pasta.
1/2 pound broccoli
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or, more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons heavy cream
A heap of grated parmesan (about 1/2 cup), to serve
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta.
Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stems with a vegetable peeler (I do this so that they cook quickly, plus, I prefer their taste without the tough stem skin.) and slice them into 1/2-inch segments.
Use your pot of future pasta water to steam (by suspending a mesh strainer over your pasta pot and covering it with a lid for 5 to 6 minutes)) or par-boil (for 3 to 5 minutes) your broccoli florets and stems until just tender, then drain if needed and set them aside.
Add pasta to water and cook until al dente, or about one minute less than fully cooked. Before draining pasta, reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain pasta.
Wipe out pot so that you can use it again. In the bottom of pot, melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sauteing it until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add steamed broccoli, salt and red or black pepper and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour cream over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.
Transfer broccoli mixture and all of its creamy bits at the bottom of the pan to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it’s finely chopped and a little sauce. Don’t worry if it looks dry; that reserved pasta water will give it the sauciness it needs in a minute. (Theoretically, one could also use an immersion blender here inside their pot to make the broccoli sauce, but it might be a bit messy with all of the chunks and small bits.)
Add the broccoli sauce back to the pot with the drained spaghetti and a splash or two of the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing the mixture so that it evenly coats. Add more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or pepper, and scoop into a serving bowl. Shower spaghetti with grated parmesan and dig in.
Do ahead: I make a large batch of the sauce and keep it in the fridge for several days, boiling a little pasta each day for lunch when I make it for Jacob.