There are many vegetables in Italian cooking with which, on occasion, one uses butter: green beans, zucchini, asparagus, spinach, Swiss chard, to name just the ones that come immediately to mind. When I was told that broccoli absolutely had to be cooked in olive oil, I bridled. Absolutely? Why? So here is a sauce where I pulled and stretched some regional borders to include something from the south—broccoli and mozzarella—and something from the north: butter and Parmesan. After all, if in the south of Italy no one cooks with butter, why do all the stores there bother carrying it, as indeed they do?
There is a luscious, clinging texture to this lovely green sauce that works so well with pasta. Note that tossing the pasta with the sauce is completed in the skillet, at which time you add the mozzarella so that as it melts over heat it completes the fusion of pasta and sauce. It’s not a technique that I favor indiscriminately, as you will note from my comments on it, but this is one of those rare instances when there is a compelling reason for adopting it.
With broccoli, boxed dry pasta tastes better than any other kind. You’ll be tossing the cooked pasta in a pan at the end, so a short shape such as rigatoni would be the one to choose, for its sturdiness and ease of handling. Also satisfactory are fusilli or penne.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.