"Green" Pasta in Brodo
I want to start by saying that I am so excited to share these recipes, and my food, with you. If you're here, thank you for coming by! It means a lot. Food is not only a form of sustenance; it is a way to experience the world, explore different cultures, revisit memories, and heal the body and soul. And there is nothing more meaningful to me than sharing my food with others, so again, thank you for coming by to share this meal with me.
This particular recipe was born of one of my weeknight dinner "experiments", when nothing is prepped and I have to fly by the seat of my pants. The brainstorming typically begins on my subway ride home -- thinking of what I have on hand in my pantry and fridge. Here's where the "green" in this recipe comes into play (and no, this is not a Green Eggs & Ham reference.)
I'd recently been thinking about how to use vegetables more sustainably - in their entirety, from leaf to tip so to speak - in the same way we can cook an animal from nose to tail, to avoid excess waste. On a few recent occasions I'd had leftover leek tops and broccoli stalks, and was equally frustrated in both cases, when I hesitated over the trash can. Surely there was a better way to use these "leftovers", and so I had both stored away in the vegetable drawer of my fridge, waiting for an idea to hit. When it came to broccoli stalk, I'd already seen it recycled in a variety of ways -- shaved, roasted, spiralized -- but I wanted to think of something unique, something my own.
So on this particularly cold night, after settling into my slippers, I laid out the ingredients in front of me and as I did so, an idea started to form. Like a game of Tetris, I started to see how all the pieces were going to fit together. I had a bag of Bionaturæ Organic Whole Wheat Chiocciole, vegetable broth, a lingering block of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and finally, my unused broccoli stalk. I was imagining something warm and comforting when the Italian dish Tortellini in Brodo came to mind. Ironically, I've never eaten this dish before, but during my childhood my family and I traveled to Italy almost every summer, and so sometimes random words, foods or smells spring into my mind from a deep well of memories.
It would be simple: cook the pasta in the broth, add my Parmigiano-Reggiano for some umami, a sprinkle of fresh black pepper, et voilà!! But I still had the problem of my broccoli stalk. My eyes wandered over the box grater, which I'd preemptively taken out for my Parmigiano, and I thought to myself, "What would happen if I tried to grate it?".
Holding a large piece of the stalk at an angle, I began running it over the medium, teardrop shaped holes on one side of the grater. It was hard at first but as I got the hang of it, thin, delicate tendrils started to fall onto the cutting board. I picked one up and put it in my mouth. The flavor was of broccoli, but much more gentle, more subtle. The addition of green and yellow zucchini was a last minute addition because more vegetables are just never a bad thing. In my opinion, the simplicity of this dish is what makes it so wonderful. Pasta is at it's best when it's simple, like a GOOD Cacio e Pepe (emphasis on GOOD, as in executed correctly, which by the way requires far more culinary mastery than one might think). The subtlety and texture of the shaved broccoli, along with a good quality Parmigiano, are what make this dish special, so don't skimp! Grate and sprinkle away!
"Green" Pasta in Brodo
- 2-3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 4 small/med or 2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 large pinch red pepper flakes, or to your taste
- 1 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt, or whichever salt you have on hand
- Shaved broccoli stalk, approx. 1/4 cup (1-2 large stalks)
- 1/2 large green zucchini, diced
- 1/2 large yellow squash, diced
- 2 cups organic vegetable stock (if you have the time to make your own, do it!)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup whole wheat or gluten free pasta, Chiocciole if you can find it, otherwise shells or rigatoni work too (something that will hold all that delicious broth)
- Sprinkle of black pepper
- Parmigiano reggiano for garnish
You will start by shaving the broccoli stalk with the medium, teardrop shaped holes on your box grater. It will be important to play around here with the angle at which you run the stalk down the grater. I've found that at certain angles, I could dig further into the hard exterior of the stalk, with the grating eventually becoming easier as I got to the somewhat softer interior.
Once you've grated roughly 1/4 cup worth of stalk , place it off to the side. Next, dice the yellow and green zucchini. Once these two elements are prepped, you are ready to get going. Heat two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, just to the point of shimmering. When the olive oil is ready, use a garlic press to press in 2 large garlic cloves, or 4 small ones. If you don't have a garlic press, you can also mince your garlic ahead of time. Once the garlic is in the pot, let it turn slightly golden, but be careful not to burn it. I've occasionally let my stainless steel pot get too hot too quickly, and the pressed garlic burnt almost immediately, which I can assure you does not taste good.
At this point, throw in your shaved broccoli stalk, zucchini, red pepper flakes, and salt, and let it all cook down. After about 10 minutes, add the broth and water. Sprinkle a little black pepper into the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta, and then turn the heat down to medium to a gentle simmer. The timing instructions on the box may not help you here (it may take longer) but cooking the pasta in the broth makes the broth more rich and magical. Check the doneness of the pasta occasionally, so as not to overcook it. Once the pasta is to the doneness of your liking (I always prefer it al dente), it's time to serve. The only thing left for you to do now is spoon equal parts broth and pasta into a bowl, sprinkle with a little black pepper and LOTS of fresh parmigiano.