Author Notes: Spaghetti and Broccoli, as we called it, is simple, delicious comfort food and a typical dish from the Puglia region, where my mom came from.
It is a family favorite and a “hit” with friends outside the family as well; this recipe is handed down from one generation to the next, it is a dish we have often. I’ve adapted from my Grandma who liked her pasta cheesy and mild, as did my mother, but I like it tweaked up with lemon zest and red pepper flakes.
This dish was a fitting tribute paid to my Grandmother, after funeral services, when we served endless Spaghetti and Broccoli – definitely a true Celebration of her Life, in our family.
Serves: a crowd
1 lb. dry spaghetti (I prefer De Cecco)
1 lb. broccoli flowers and stems (I use 1 bag of frozen when broccoli is no longer garden fresh)
6-8 large garlic cloves, 1/2 of them minced, 1/2 sliced
Zest from 1 lemon
1-2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes - to your taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil…divided in half
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 teaspoon sea salt…plus extra for the boiling pasta water
1/4 cup pasta water...divided in half
1 cup micro-plane grated Pecorino/Parmesan mix - divided in half.
Extra cheese for individual plates after serving.
- In a small bowl, add the minced garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes; whisk and reserve for later.
- Place a large heatproof serving dish or bowl in the oven, heated @ 200 degrees. Note: I sometimes use a large saute pan.
- Start a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the spaghetti noodles half way. Add the broccoli. Finish cooking until pasta is al dente and broccoli is tender. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water - divide in half.
- Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan, heat the first 3 tablespoons of olive oil; add onion and saute until soft.
- Add the sliced garlic and 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, stir until the garlic is pale yellow colored.
- Take pan off the heat. Stir in the reserved minced garlic/lemon zest/red pepper flakes and add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water. Reserve until needed in step #8.
- Drain the spaghetti/broccoli and transfer to the warmed serving bowl or dish. Add the last 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining pasta water - toss to coat.
- Now add the reserved onion/garlic, olive oil mixture (from step #6) and the first half of grated cheese, toss to combine.
- Sprinkle with the last half of the grated cheese and serve.
- Or at this point you can cover with foil and let sit in oven for up to a half hour - the pasta and broccoli will be cooked a bit more…but personally, I like it that way.