Reluctant cooks (and just about everybody is one at some point) usually have a few criteria that knock many recipes out of the running. If a dish requires too much chopping, or multiple pans, it’s out. Same goes for recipes that make a mess (e.g., from pureeing or oil splattering). Seasonal meals are too dependent on specific ingredients. And anything that can go from perfect to overcooked in a matter of moments (pork chops, we’re looking at you) isn’t ideal, either.
But then there’s this recipe from Rachel Roddy, a food writer living in Rome whose new book, My Kitchen in Rome, brims with no-nonsense dinners, most of which are unfussy and straightforward. Few, however, are as breezy and laid-back as this comforting pasta.
It’s a much-loved vegetarian dish in Rome, and is often made with Romanesco cauliflower, a lime-green vegetable that sort of resembles a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. But you can use any of the aforementioned vegetables here, which is one reason we love this dish—it’s flexible and delicious even when made with the more unglamorous, quotidian items of the produce aisle. Moreover, when it comes to the cooking, you’re supposed to boil the broccoli until it’s soft. “None of this al dente business,” Roddy writes.
Once you’ve simmered the florets until they’re tender (it can take about eight minutes), you’ll get to the second part of this recipe, which will be music to your ears if pesky dirty dishes are one of the reasons you detest cooking. Scoop the florets out of the water, using a slotted spoon; then, boil the pasta using the same veggie-infused water. Penne and rigatoni work well; you can also use orecchiette or cavatelli.
While the pasta bubbles away, you cook a couple of garlic cloves that you’ve crushed with the side of a knife in an olive oil-coated frying pan. When they’re golden and fragrant, you spoon the cloves out and add the boiled broccoli (or cauliflower). Using the back of a wooden spoon, you gently mash the florets so they break up. Then, once the pasta is cooked to your liking, lift it out of the water, carrying a bit of that starchy liquid with it, and add it to the frying pan. Grated Parmesan or pecorino is the only other thing you need here; the cheese melts and turns into a salty, savory sauce.
Six ingredients, less than 30 minutes and minimal chopping (plus, absolutely no slicing or dicing)—for a wonderfully filling, completely from-scratch supper? Sign us up.
Get the recipe: Pasta e Broccoli (Pasta and Broccoli)