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.
Serves 4 as a main course, more as a side dish
For the broccoli
- 3/4 pounds spaghetti, whole wheat or semolina, both work fine
- 1 large bunch broccoli, cut into florets (about 6 cups)
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus two tablespoons
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 fat anchovy fillets
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- salt, to taste
For the "gremolata" bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs, I use whole wheat
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti.
- Separate broccoli into florets and place on half sheet pan. Drizzle two tablespoons olive oil over top and toss to coat. Sprinkle a little kosher or sea salt over top. Roast in oven for 15 - 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.
- Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook to "al dente" according to directions on the package.
- Heat a high sided saute 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.
- Heat up a small skillet over medium heat and add one tablespoon olive oil. Add the 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.
- Once the broccoli is well roasted, add it to the pan with the garlic and anchovy. Mix well to coat.
- 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.
- Add about 3/4 of the bread crumb mixture to the pan and mix well.
- Once the pasta mixture is in a serving dish, sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs over top.