Do you still cook the same way you did when you first started making your own meals? Or have your skills and tastes changed and evolved over the years?
My skills as a cook have definitely improved (those two years spent in culinary school helped) and my taste buds have changed, too. I cook from scratch most of the time and if I end up grabbing a pre-packaged something due to a time pinch, I'm generally disappointed. Believe me, I wish I could find frozen meals that I thought were worth the time savings - and calories. If you've found something you love and would recommend, please let me know!
But aside from the frozen ravioli that I keep for emergencies (and the ice cream kept for um, other emergencies), there isn't much in the frozen food aisle that I can honestly say I like. Most things, no matter what your skill level might be, always taste better when made with your own hands.
But The New Basics Cookbook is one of the few from my early cooking days that I find myself reaching for again and again. And Broccoli and Garlic Penne is one of the reasons why, even if it's been committed to memory. It's still fast (15 minutes max, according to the authors) and still delicious. You can ask Bob if you don't believe me. It was one of our first vegetarian meals and it continues to be a regular in the lineup. And unlike heavier, ragu type pastas, it's great year round.
One last thing. How do you feel about blanching and shocking? If you've never done either, I promise this recipe will make you a convert. Blanching means to cook vegetables very briefly (usually 3 minutes, max) in boiling, salted water, until they're crisp tender. Shocking means to immediately plunge those cooked vegetables into a bowl of cold, ice water, effectively stopping the cooking process and 'setting' their bright, beautiful color. In addition to this recipe, you can blanch and shock the vegetables for a crudite platter (aka, a veggie tray), to add to a salad (like a salad nicoise) or to warm up later to serve as a side dish.
1/2 pound penne
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced crosswise
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Meanwhile, set aside a bowl of ice water. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add broccoli. Cook for 2 minutes, drain and place in bowl of ice water. Congratulations - you've just blanched and shocked your broccoli. Drain the broccoli once it's cooled and pat dry.
- Place the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, along with the sliced garlic. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic begins to brown around the edges. You can cook the garlic longer if you'd like, but be careful not to let it burn.
- Add the broccoli to the skillet, stir well and sprinkle with black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the penne to the broccoli and garlic mixture, stirring often, until everything is well mixed and hot, 2-3 minutes. If the penne is sticking to the pan, add more olive oil.
- Place in a serving dish, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and add more black pepper if desired.