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.
CalabrianPasta 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
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.
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.
Two minutes before the pasta is done, ladle out two ladle-fuls of the cooking water and set aside.
When the pasta and broccoli are done, drain them out. Then, return the pasta and broccoli to the pot.
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.
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.
When I am not writing this blog, I am in graduate school for urban planning at the University of Maryland. I primarily focus on disability access and aging, and how we can do better planning for cities that are livable for everyone (Sometimes this means that I write about toilets.) A lot of what we look at revolves not just around how people should move about the city, but about how people actually do so. And some of that includes the fact that some travel is simply not facilitated.
One thing we planners often discuss is “trip-chaining.” In our jargon, this means “a trip with one or more stops on the way.” So, instead of say a single-purpose trip – a trip to work or from work – it is more of a trip that might include dropping your child off, picking up some medicines, working for a few hours, and then swinging by the supermarket on the way back. Everyone trip-chains at some point. However, women, children, and people with disabilities are far more likely to trip-chain on a daily basis than men. The problem is that much of our extant transport infrastructure is planned around the assumption of a commute to work in the morning and a commute back from work in the evening. This case is especially apparent for public transit schedules. But for women still largely charged with childcare and household responsibilities, and others who are less likely to work in big job centers on those schedules, navigating the transport system becomes more difficult. Trip-chaining is easier for many – and besides, logically makes more sense – than doing one trip to get the groceries, another to drop off a child, and so on. Planning is finally cottoning on to this reality.
Trip-chaining affects how we buy groceries and what groceries we buy. Firstly, when we go to buy groceries, our cognitive bandwidth is not always focused on the groceries. Anyone who has cared for a child while shopping or had to do it in a rush to catch a bus can tell you this. Secondly, it means that groceries will be carried sometimes a fairly long distance – especially if it’s not the last stop on a trip. If, like in some countries, distances are not that far, it means that it is not too terrible to carry around fresh vegetables, dairy, or other perishables. But in places with long travel times, or where transit is unreliable, perishable food becomes risky. Hence it is easier – and less wasteful – to buy things that do not need a refrigerator or can be outside of a fridge for longer. Think canned beans, fruit and vegetables that travel well, and not as many fragile leaves or berries. (Which, besides, are prohibitively expensive for some.) Difficulty in travel also makes big trips to the supermarket with a car far more likely – people in places that are heavily car-dependent go to the grocery store less often than people elsewhere, and the bulk and length of those visits are hard to chain.
I think processed foods have other benefits, especially for certain folks and people in certain places. But one advantage that is not always acknowledged is that they are something someone can actually buy and cart around effectively. If you have to grocery shop while doing three other tasks, it is harder to select and lug around fresh foods – especially if you don’t have a car to stow them in or if you have a long way to travel. Sometimes, it is easier to just buy a can or a box. Not to mention that it is already hard, with overwhelming choice, for many people to grocery shop anyway. Add the labor on top of that of child care or coordinating three schedules or three tasks, and then the cognitive load for many is overwhelming. The fact that I can eat and cook with so many vegetables has much more to do with the fact that I have lived walking distance from a good grocery store my entire adult life, and not nearly as much to do with my (lacking) virtue.
What does this mean in the Jewish context? Well, I think it illustrates the fact that things like pre-made latke mixes, canned soups, and “hacks” to make traditional dishes actually have a place in our kitchens. They make Jewish food much more manageable and feasible for some people, and there should not be shame in doing what is possible in the system you cannot change as an individual alone. And certainly not with consumption wrapped in deeply privileged ideas of propriety.
I have attached a simple recipe for a soup made entirely from ingredients you can buy while trip-chaining. It is an adaptation of pasta e fagioli for the vast majority of us who do not have the time to lovingly caress beautiful ingredients every day. The soup takes under half an hour to make. You could probably swap frozen vegetables for the canned option, but it is harder to travel with those! (I use frozen, but I live five minutes’ walk from a grocery store.) These are also items that could easily be stored for a while in a pantry. I use soup powder, but you can use stock as well. The recipe multiplies well. My boyfriend enjoyed this soup, and I hope you do too!
Bean Soup with Pasta (Trip-Chainers’ Pasta e Fagioli)
1 teaspoon table salt (add 1 ½ tsp more if using stock)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 15oz/425g can cannellini beans
1 15oz/425g can diced tomatoes
1 8oz/212g can mixed vegetables
1 cup elbow macaroni
Olive oil or vegetable oil
Apple cider vinegar
Water for pasta (and soup)
Ready-made vegetable stock for the soup (optional)
Put some water on to boil in a small saucepan for the pasta. Dice the onion and garlic however small you like them.
Put a bigger saucepan on the heat for the soup. Add the oil – maybe two tablespoons – then the onions and garlic. Sauté, stirring, for two minutes, or until soft.
Add the soup powder (if using), salt, pepper, and oregano, then mix in. Add a splash of vinegar. Sauté for 30 more seconds.
Add the canned tomatoes and mix in. When they are boiling, add the beans, then 2 cups of water or ready-made vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the pasta is ready. If you like your soup very liquid, cover the pot so the steam gets trapped.
When the pasta water is ready, add the elbows. Bring to a boil, then cook for five-six minutes or until al dente. Drain, and set aside.
Add the canned vegetables to the soup when the pasta is done. Bring to a boil again, then simmer for two minutes. Turn off the heat.
To serve, ladle pasta into the bowl, then soup, to the serving size of your choice.