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Beware the broccoli comfort zone. At first, the “BCZ” can seem like a great place. Choices seem plentiful—you can eat broccoli roasted, sautéed, blanched, raw. Take note: Repeated exposure to only the florets of broccoli can lead to listlessness and apathy. Escape the clutches! Regain your moxie! Here is how:
- Broil the florets and turn them into pesto.
- Cook the stems. (They are arguably the best part of broccoli.) After removing their fibrous outsides, they can be sliced and eaten raw or sautéed; cooked, they have a sweetness to them and a texture similar to artichoke hearts.
Now combine these two ideas. Cook your favorite tube-shaped pasta (I like mezzi rigatoni), and toss it with the broccoli pesto. Fold in the cooked broccoli stems and grated smoked mozzarella cheese, then transfer everything to a casserole dish. Top with more smoked mozzarella, because why wouldn't you? Cook it until it is bubbling and beautiful.
If you’re hunkered down in a cold part of the country, this dish will keep you warm and happy for a few days. If you’re somewhere along the California coast and you’re sick of hearing about winter, deal with it (and serve this at room temperature—it makes an epic pasta salad).
- 1 bunch broccoli (should yield approximately 5 cups of florets)
- 3/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the broccoli
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
- 1/2 pound mezzi rigatoni (or your favorite shape of dried pasta)
- 1/2 pound smoked mozzarella