Vegetables and dairy are wonderful pairings especially when they are creamy and used as a pasta “sauce”. I put “sauce” in quotes because the correct term in Italian would be a “condimento”…a condiment that enhances the pasta which, sorry to do this to you carb-haters out there, but the Pasta is the main event on a plate of macaroni. The sauce or condimento just adds more flavor and nourishment, it’s an enhancer. And the sky is the limit with pasta dishes. Italy is full of heritage recipes, family recipes, regional recipes, with new ones are being created all the time. I’m going to think that I created this but somewhere out there this dish may already be on a table in an Italian kitchen. Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s create together…for more texture I’m adding crushed walnuts. Why? Why NOT? They will make the dish more interesting and complex. The crunch with play off nicely with the toothsome pasta and creamy blend of cooked Broccoli and Mascarpone. Parmigiano sharpens the plate and it’s nuttiness works with the Walnuts. Peperoncino because I’m of Southern Italian extraction and it’s what we do. So I’ll give you a pass here and say if dried crushed chiles are too hot for your palate, fresh cracked black pepper will work too. I’m going to ask you to do something that you will probably have been taught not to do. I want you to “overcook” your broccoli. That’s right, no crisp bright green florets for this dish, it simply will not work. It will only taste raw. Are you up for the challenge?? Do you have the courage to turn your Broccoli into mush? GOOD! Continue with me into the kitchen then..let’s go..ANDIAMO!
SERVES: 4-6 TIME: about 1 hour
2 lbs. CHOPPED WELL COOKED BROCCOLI (cook the broccoli until it’s very soft, drain well and let it sit for at least 1 hour, drain off any water that collects).
1 1/2 cups MASCARPONE CHEESE
2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO (or fresh ground Black Pepper)
2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Juice of 1 LEMON
3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO PLUS MORE FOR SERVING AND FINISHING
3 TBS. CRUSHED TOASTED WALNUTS
1 TBS WALNUT OIL (if available)
1 lb PACCHERI OR RIGATONI..cooked till Al Dente according to the package directions
In a Bowl, using a potato Masher, mash the Broccoli. A Food Processor will make this “CREMA” too thin, I like this with some small pieces of broccoli among the mashed pieces. If you must have it thinner pulse it in a Food Processor.
In a large non stick pan, heat the olive oil…when it’s heated, add the garlic and a pinch of the peperoncino, pinch of salt. Do not let the garlic brown, as soon as you really can smell the garlic add the broccoli and heat the broccoli through keeping this on a low flame. Heat for at least 8 minutes, being careful to stir frequently. Taste for seasoning, if you think it needs some salt, add a little now. Add the lemon.,Gently stir in the Mascarpone until it’s incorporated into the mixture. Next add the grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO and the Pasta. Gently mix the pasta into the “CREMA”. Make sure it’s well blended.
How nice is that? So, let’s finish this up…top with the toasted crushed walnuts, peperoncino or black pepper, a drizzle of Walnut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil and more Grated Parmigiano.
That is smoking “hot”. A nice glass of wine or Sparkling Italian Water with fresh lime or lemon, or a frosty Beer or Coca-Cola…drink what you want. Eat what you want. You’ll want to eat this! Happy Cooking!!
so let’s talk PACCHERI..what the hell is A FOOD OBSESSION talking about? It’s an oversized Rigatoni like pasta that is loved in Naples (again with the Naples, sorry) and generally paired with light seafood sauces. It’s big and toothsome and sucks into it’s center some of the Crema di Broccoli and the nuts. Not easy to find but it’s what I use when I make the dish. Rigatoni will work as well so, there’s your option.