Calabrian Pasta With Broccoli

A simple recipe this time, for something that I’ve made for dinner quite frequently over the past few months. Olive oil is a prominent ingredient, so I guess it is Hanukkah appropriate? I have not found any specifically Jewish history for this dish, which has variations that come from across Southern Italy – I based this one on the version from Calabria. While this dish is often made with broccoli rabe, which I love, I wanted to master a version with simple broccoli as well – broccoli rabe is a chore to find out of season.

One thing that I do find interesting is that most traditional variations on this dish involve cooking the vegetables and pasta together – something that felt counterintuitive to me, since cookbooks so often direct one to cook the pasta separately! Many recipes mention this as some sort of flavor bomb, but I think the true, and simpler, origin is that this trick makes it quicker to cook and clean up. Unglamorous convenience, but delicious results.

Twisted pasta with a broccoli sauce and cheese in a black and white bowl with a glass dish of grated cheese behind it. Some red pepper flakes are visible.
This recipe, with gemelli. (Photo David Ouziel, November 2021)

Calabrian Pasta with Broccoli

Based on recipes by Micol Negrin and Lidia Bastianich

Variants listed at the end.

10.5 ounces/300 g short pasta (orecchiette, gemelli, and casarecce work best here – penne works in a pinch)

1 pound/450 g fresh chopped broccoli florets*

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

¾ teaspoon dried rosemary

¾ teaspoon table salt

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Then, add the pasta and broccoli together. Bring to a boil again, then cook for as long as you need to cook the pasta to be al dente. Check the package.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and rosemary in a small pan. Place on medium heat until you begin to smell the garlic, which should be changing color, and the oil begins to bubble. Stir over heat for 45 seconds, then turn off the heat.
  3. Two minutes before the pasta is done, ladle out two ladle-fuls of the cooking water and set aside.
  4. When the pasta and broccoli are done, drain them out. Then, return the pasta and broccoli to the pot.
  5. Pour over the oil mixture and add the salt, and mix in together. Add a few splashes of pasta water to ensure the oil gets evenly distributed.
  6. Serve hot. Add grated Parmesan on top of each serving. Leftovers should stay good for about three days.

*For a more traditional dish, use broccoli rabe and cut the rosemary. Cauliflower also works well in this dish. I also recommend chopped green beans – for which you may want to cut the rosemary, and add 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice to the oil mixture.

Thank you to my partner, David Ouziel, for conducting repeat User Acceptance Testing and taking photos for this post.