Broccoli Aglio e Olio with Gremolata Breadcrumbs

By • January 14, 2010 • 31 Comments

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Author Notes: I first had Spaghetti Aglio Olio with Broccoli on a roadtrip to Woodstock, NY with my older sister and her then boyfriend (later husband). I've loved it since. Looking back, that version was probably nothing special, but as a teenager trying out vegetarianism in a house of meat eaters, it was a symbol of adulthood and freedom that I could choose a new, and for my parents, radical way of eating.

My sister, nine years older, was a huge influence on me when I was growing up. She brought me books and exposed me to new food experiences such as fresh vegetables (particularly broccoli), stir fries and home baked cookies. She bought me my first cookbooks, the Moosewood when I went to college and Susan Branch's Heart of the Home for my first wedding anniversary. I was a latecomer to cooking, but other than Jewish holiday food, most of my early influences came from her.

Sadly, it was also my sister who set me on my current course, cooking wise. She died three years ago, of a sudden heart attack at age 53. Doctors have advised me that the cardiac history of a sibling is even more telling than that of a parent. So, in an effort to do whatever possible to fight genetics, I try to eat well while being well.

I miss her everyday, so it's in her honor that I submit this recipe as the one I'd like to be remembered for. I came up with this last year for the broccoli contest in an attempt to recreate the dish I loved so long ago. I've updated it and made it my own. This recipe includes anchovies, so it's no longer vegetarian, but then, neither am I.


Food52 Review: This is a spin on a classic Italian pasta dish, turning everyday ingredients (many of which you may already have in your pantry) into a special pasta dish with strong flavors and a welcome crunch. The anchovy filets and Aleppo pepper up the flavor quotient, while the herbed breadcrumbs elevate it to something you could serve dinner guests. I loved how garlicky this recipe was, but use less than the full six cloves if you'd like it to be milder. Note: If you cannot find Aleppo pepper, a 3:1 ratio of paprika to cayenne can be used. HanaCooks

Serves 4 as a main course, more as a side dish

For the broccoli

  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 large bunches broccoli, cut into florets (about 6 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti, whole wheat or semolina, both work fine
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fat anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

For the "gremolata" bread crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (I use whole wheat)
  1. Heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti.
  3. Place broccoli florets on a half sheet pan. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over top and toss to coat. Sprinkle a little kosher or sea salt over top. Roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes. You want them to cook through and brown a little. Throw the little tiny florets and bits of broccoli into the pan as well -- they will crisp up a bit and provide a nice crunch.
  4. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook to "al dente" according to directions on the package.
  5. Heat a high-sided sauté pan, with enough room for the whole recipe, over medium to medium-low heat. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil and then the 5 cloves of garlic. Let the garlic soften and brown a little, but not burn. Add the anchovies and stir until the anchovies dissolve. Add the Aleppo pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Once everything is mixed, leave the burner on very low to keep this warm.
  6. Heat up a small skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the remaining garlic and let it soften and lightly brown. Add the lemon zest and parsley, and then the bread crumbs and mix well. Lower burner to medium-low and let the bread crumb mixture toast lightly.
  7. Once the broccoli is well roasted, add it to the pan with the garlic and anchovy. Mix well to coat.
  8. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan and toss well. If the mixture seems dry, add some of the pasta water a few splashes at a time.
  9. Add about 3/4 of the bread crumb mixture to the pan and mix well.
  10. Once the pasta mixture is in a serving dish, sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs over the top.
Jump to Comments (31)

Comments (31) Questions (0)


12 days ago karmaya

wanted to buy aleppo pepper, so googled & found this very interesting info:


2 months ago Ann Wilkinson

First, what a great story about this recipe. Recipes with meaning and a beautiful history somehow taste better. I cannot wait to try this; usually I blanch broccoli to make my pasta/broccoli version. For time sake, I may try using Panko i/o fresh bread crumbs. I think the anchovies will add a nice depth of flavor. Nice!


4 months ago ECMotherwell

Made it last night, and yes! It was outstandingly delicious. Thank you, healthierkitchen! I didn't have Aleppo Pepper on hand (look forward to trying it) and so did the 3:1 paprika to cayenne substitution. (I love smoked paprika, so I used that.) Thanks to HannaCooks for that suggestion! Also, I forgot to take the broccoli out at 15-20 and left it in for 25 minutes. It tasted fantastic, but broke down a bit more in the mixing process than I wanted. Next time, I'll follow the roasting directions to the letter!


10 months ago Isolina Surci Marvelli

My very facirite pasta dish! Always different, always good


about 1 year ago Jeni

I made this for a quick lunch at home alone, though I used the #5 unami anchovy paste. It was perfect for my current meatless diet. Thanks! I moved overseas and your intro made me miss my sister also.


about 1 year ago healthierkitchen

Thanks for writing Jeni! I've had that umami paste and it is pretty terrific tasting.


about 1 year ago EmilyC

Wendy -- I made this as a meatless Friday dinner for Lent, and it was fantastic! This is two great recipes in one as I would gladly eat the broccoli tossed with the garlic-anchovy-Aleppo infused olive oil as a side dish any day! Loved the flavor and texture the breadcrumbs add. My kids liked it too. Will definitely make this again!


about 1 year ago healthierkitchen

So glad you liked it Emily, and particularly pleased your kids did, too! I first came up with this when my kids were younger and they loved it too. Back then I came at this from a pasta perspective, but have cut back on that so much lately, that your vegetable only suggestion is a great one. Maybe with a little farro, too, or quinoa?


almost 3 years ago arielleclementine

this sounds amazing! thanks for the recipe!


almost 4 years ago gingerroot

I'm not sure how I missed this, but what an incredibly lovely tribute to your sister. I am the oldest of four and my youngest brother is 13 1/2 years younger than me. I have really enjoyed sharing my love of food and cooking with him. I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing this, healthierkitchen.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Many thanks for commenting gingeroot. I think I got a little emotional over the Passover holiday this year.


almost 4 years ago lorigoldsby

ahh the Moosewood, so many memories of that cookbook. Your sharing of such an intensely personal connection--you touch so many people. Thank you for sharing--for so many reasons--not the least of which are some yummy ones!


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks for your comment, lorigoldsby. I'm usually pretty vague about why I do what I do, but lately I've been more direct. Not sure what changed...maybe time?


almost 4 years ago Midge

OK, I keep getting teary-eyed reading these headnotes. What a great sister and a lovely tribute to her. I considered entering aglio olio, which was a standy in my house growing up and still is, but your version sounds much better!


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks Midge. She was terrific! You should enter yours too - can never have too much garlic with pasta!


almost 4 years ago lapadia

How wonderful to carry on your sister's legacy, a great tribute! I have this same recipe posted - check it out, (almost used it for this contest), it was a recipe my grandmother made often, and one dear to my heart because of that, and so I will always remember your story now, too! The recipe I have posted is minus your breadcrumbs and anchovy additions, but I hope try that..sounds tasty!


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Wow, lapadia, great minds.... I will have to try cheese, too. Was this an Italian grandmother? I always suspected I'm actually Italian! Hope you'll give the anchovy and bread crumbs a try.


almost 4 years ago lapadia

Yes, this is my Italian grandmother!


almost 4 years ago wssmom

Not only an awesome recipe, but a wonderful tribute! Thank you for sharing it....


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks wssmom. Both my husband and I grew up on LI.


almost 4 years ago wssmom

And not only did you live to tell about it, you are still speaking in complete sentences! LOL!


almost 4 years ago Bevi

I love broccoli and all the ways it can be made. Do you remember the Broccoli/Mushroom/Noodle casserole from Moosewood?

Your lovely story is hitting so close to home. My own little sister is struggling with a terminal illness. One of her few pleasures left is to enjoy a nice meal.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Bevi, I pulled out my Moosewood and I still have a very yellowed scrap of looseleaf binder paper as a bookmark on that page! I'm so sorry that your sister is ill and hope that a recovery or repreive is in her future. Enjoy your time together.


almost 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I have tears in my eyes from reading your story. What a great recipe and wonderful tribute to your sister.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks drbabs. I made my daughter read it before I posted to make sure it wasn't too maudlin. I'm only just starting to write about this.


almost 4 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

What a great combination. Anchovies and those luscious breadcrumbs - this is far from an ordinary pasta with broccoli. And what a lovely tribute to your sister.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks so much boulangere.


almost 4 years ago Cupcake921

What a great recipe and story! Thank you, I really enjoyed reading it.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks so much LoveJuliette. It was really hard to write this.


about 5 years ago Food Blogga

I love this pasta. It's so simple yet packed with such bold flavors.


about 5 years ago healthierkitchen

Thanks!! It actually makes a good side dish for milder fish like flounder, etc. I sometimes use the same breadcrumbs as a topping for the fish as well.