Broccoli rabe and I have an interesting relationship. Growing up, I would only grudgingly consume it when prepared with thin slices of garlic and red pepper flakes as a side to accompany the rest of the meal. I wasn’t a huge fan of the bitter taste and I’m still kind of on the fence about it today but I didn’t dislike it (I dare not use the word “hate”. I save that word for the vegetables that I actually, well, hate such as zucchini, lima beans and red & green bell peppers). Progress!
I saved this recipe until Sunday because my mother would be home for dinner and I know how much she loves broccoli rabe (who do you think made me eat it all those nights when I was younger?). Everybody, besides myself, was content with the meal.
Hold up, you say. Hold. Up. What do you mean you weren’t content? Well…
Remember how I mentioned I wasn’t feeling spectacular this weekend? Well, that, coupled with the fact that I had eaten my fair share (or, perhaps, more than my fair share) of a loaf of warm, delicious semolina bread bought from Corrado’s Market, I wasn’t very hungry come dinner time. I would have been perfectly happy to prepare the food but watch everyone else eat it.
All things considered though, I have a feeling that if I had been in better spirits – and much hungrier – I would have been so very, very much in love. There really is nothing wrong, ingredients-wise, when it comes to this recipe. The broccoli is bitter but not over-powerfully so. The garlic and red pepper flakes are a fabulous kick and pow, like Batman giving the Joker a good whack across the kisser. The anchovies add just a little bit of salt.
Despite my mood, it was somewhat relaxing to make this, it’s simplicity calming. It’s not labour intensive or ridiculously multi-stepped but, in the end, you still get a dinner that you would serve to friends or want to make one evening when on your own and cold and tired and want something warm and spicy and noodle-ly.
I altered the recipe only slightly but altered it nonetheless but, at this point, you should probably expect it from me. So. What did I change? As I said: not much. I added a little bit more garlic than it initially called for because, lordy, I adore garlic.
The major change, which isn’t even that major, is that I skipped the first step entirely. The recipe calls for you to steam the broccoli rabe first and then let it cool and chop it, cooking it further later on once the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes have begun to turn golden and sizzle and smell absolutely lovely. But last night, I was in no headspace to even fathom the reasoning behind this step so I just did what I do best: pretended it didn’t exist. And, you know what? It worked out fine! I added the uncooked broccoli rabe to the garlic oil mix in the pan and let it steam and stirred, stirred, stirred best I could.
I wound up adding an extra tablespoon of oil near the end to the greens because I was concerned they would be too dry and it really helped (I’ve been using Safflower Oil the past couple of days to cook with and it’s a really nice, light substitute.).
I used whole grain, thin spaghetti because I’m kind of in love with it right now and any excuse for me to use it in a pasta dish is a good excuse. It used to be pretty horrible, impossible to cook to the right consistency and more times than not was cardboard-ish and grainy. Whole grain pasta has really come a long way, you guys, it’s so much better now. If you can find it, use it. It’s healthier and tastes just as good.
This was good. It was a good recipe and a good time to make. It’s the kind of food that you wish had arms so you could reach out and properly give it a hug because it certainly feels as if it’s hugging you.
Fusilli (or Spaghetti) with Broccoli Rabe
(slightly) adapted from Food & Wine.
1½ pounds broccoli rabe, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, mashed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
1 pound pasta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the anchovies and crushed red pepper and cook for one minute. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring, until the broccoli rabe is dark green and until the flavors are well-blended, about 5 minutes. Put in the extra tablespoon of oil, stir, season with salt and black pepper and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water (add oil to the water to keep pasta from sticking if necessary), stirring occasionally, until done. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the butter and stir until it has melted entirely, then add the broccoli rabe and reserved water and toss together. Season with extra salt and pepper is needed. Serve and enjoy.