Frankly, whats not to love about a pasta dish that uses one pot, with a start to finish time of 20 minutes? Pasta con Broccoli e Ricotta Salata is a home run no matter how you look at it. The star elements, pasta and broccoli come together perfectly with the help of garlic infused olive oil, tangy capers and briny Ricotta Salata; the perfect marriage of ingredients.
Ricotta Salata comes from the whey of sheep milk; pressed, salted and aged for 90 days. It is creamy white in color and has a milky, salty, almost nutty flavor. Ricotta Salata is a semi firm dairy product which grates or crumbles quite easily; often used with salads, pastas and vegetable dishes.
The trick to preparing Pasta con Broccoli is to have all of the ingredients in your pantry and ready to go. The most demanding part of the process is chopping the broccoli. Once the giant pasta pot is set on the stove to boil, have the other items measured and set aside along with the serving bowl.
These days we use a high quality imported Italian whole wheat pasta whenever possible. Remember, overcooked whole wheat pasta turns to a inedible spongelike carb – think cafeteria food. Always reduce the recommended cooking time for any pasta, since it continues to cook as you integrate the hot pasta into the sauce; this is especially true for whole wheat varieties.
Pasta con Broccoli e Ricotta Salata is a first-rate weekday supper served along with a tossed green salad and of course a glass of vino or two.
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- 1 large head of broccoli, washed
- 1 pound of imported Italian whole wheat pasta, such as penne regatte
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 Tbs. salt
- ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
- ⅓ lb. of Ricotta Salata
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Prepare the broccoli by trimming off the bottom 2 inches or so of the stalks and discard. Using a pairing knife peel back the tough stringy exterior of the stalk, pulling as you move upwards. Cut the stalk into ¼" discs; if some seem large slice them into halves. The florets should be cut into uniform sizes of about 1½ inch in length.
- Place a large pot of fresh cool water on high heat and bring to a full boil.
- While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil, place the sliced garlic, ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil and the 1 tablespoon of salt into a large serving bowl which will accommodate the finished dish. Stir the olive oil well while rubbing the garlic pieces onto the bottom and sides of the bowl with the a spoon, set aside.
- Once the water comes to a roaring boil add a handful of salt, stir and add the broccoli. Allow the broccoli to come back to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Immediately drain the broccoli using a hand held strainer into the prepared serving bowl. Stir the broccoli well, coating it with the garlic infused olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and stir again.
- Bring the same pot of water back to a full boil; once it has begun to boil again add another handful of salt. Add the pound of whole wheat pasta to the boiling water, give the pasta a strong stir and have it come to a boil. Once the pasta reaches a point just before the al dente stage, drain it immediately into the broccoli. The pasta will continue to cook after it is removed from the pan and whole wheat pasta will become limp and overcooked rather quickly. The instructions on the imported pasta I used suggested a cook time of 11 minutes; I removed that pasta promptly at the 7 minute point which was perfect.
- Stir the pasta into the broccoli, combining it well. Crumble the Ricotta Salata over the top of the pasta with your hands. Scatter the capers over the Ricotta Salata and drizzle the dish with a bit more extra virgin olive oil. The pasta is ready to serve.