After a 4.30am start today (toddler, not baby – think it’s the brighter mornings), followed by a very busy morning out and about, by lunchtime I was flagging. Big time. Toddler declared he wanted pasta for lunch on the long walk home, and I quite fancied a steaming bowl of something comforting and carby too. This dish was just right, a perfect balance of comfort and health food: zingy lemon, piquant capers, fruity parmesan, fresh herbs, tender broccoli, all brought together with an emulsion created by the olive oil, the pasta water and a little butter. It’s good food in every sense. Baby loved it as much as toddler. The ‘little ears’ pasta shapes and soft broccoli florets were perfectly sized for her little hands. So quick too – in the same time it took to cook the pasta, the sauce was made. About 15 minutes in total from beginning to end. Make sure you slice your broccoli up really thinly, no more than 1/2cm in width, so it cooks quickly, this is the key to its speediness.
Normally when I make this sort of pasta and broccoli dish I add anchovies, but we ate them all in a gribiche I made yesterday, so they were left out. Hence this is a truly vegetarian dish, worthy of note I thought…
To make enough for 2 adults (or 1 adult and 2 children):
200g orecchiete or a similar pasta (penne would work) – I always work to 100g per person, or 50g for a child, so multiply accordingly
1/2 a head of broccoli, about 200g in weight, florets and stalks sliced thinly, no more than 1/2 – 1cm wide
1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed, squeezed and chopped finely
2 handfuls of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
2 large cloves of garlic, grated or chopped finely
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, and juice of half a lemon
A large knob of butter
- Boil a couple of kettle’s worth of water and empty them into the largest pan you have. Add salt, and bring to an angry boil. Tip your pasta in and set a timer for a minute or two less than the cooking instructions say (depending on how al dente you like it, I always do a minute under). When the pasta is 4 minutes away from being done, add your sliced broccoli to the boiling water.
- Whilst your pasta is cooking, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan, and grate your garlic into it with a fine grater. Let it sizzle a little, but not colour (once it starts to colour remove it from heat).
- Put your finely chopped capers in now and let that sizzle too for a few minutes, over a medium heat but still watching the colour.
- Add your finely chopped parsley and lemon zest. Cook it out for a few more minutes and let it come together as a sauce.
- Drain your pasta and broccoli, reserving half a mugful of pasta water.
- Add your pasta and broccoli to the pan with the sauce in and combine over a low heat. Splash about half of the water in (a few tablespoons’ worth), and add a knob of butter and your parmesan, with a squeeze of lemon juice too. Mix well, and season with salt. Taste and adjust accordingly with lemon and salt.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil oil and some more parmesan.