Broccoli and Mozzarella Pasta Sauce

Sugo di Broccoli e Mozzarella

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, making

    4

    large

Appears in

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.

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Ingredients

  • ½ pound broccoli
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ¼ pound mozzarella, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more cheese to grate at the table

Method

Suggested Pasta

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.

  1. Detach the florets and any small leaves from the broccoli. Pare away from the broccoli’s main stems, and from the larger of the florets’ stems as well, the hard, dark green rind and any other tough stringy part. Cut the thick, detached stems lengthwise in half. Wash the stems under cold running water, and the florets in several changes of cold water.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt and the thick main broccoli stems. (The salt is to keep the broccoli green and will not make it salty.) Cook for 6 or 7 minutes, then add the florets. When the water returns to a boil, cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the thickest broccoli piece feels tender when tested with a fork. Drain, and as soon as the vegetable is cool enough to handle comfortably, chop it fine.
  3. In a 12-inch skillet put the oil, butter, and chopped garlic, and turn on the heat to medium. Cook the garlic, stirring frequently, until it becomes colored a pale gold.
  4. Add the chopped broccoli and a little salt, turn it two or three times to coat it well, then take the pan off heat.
  5. Cook the pasta in abundant salted boiling water to a very firm al dente consistency. Drain it, collecting in a small bowl better than half a cup of the water.
  6. Add the drained pasta to the pan containing the broccoli; turn on the heat to high; turn over the pasta and broccoli three or four times; then add the chopped mozzarella, the parsley, the ½ cup grated Parmesan, and ½ cup of the pasta water that you previously collected. Briskly turn over the pasta until the mozzarella has fused and the water has been entirely absorbed or boiled away.
  7. Transfer to a warm bowl and serve at once with additional Parmesan to grate at the table.

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