Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Broccoli and Garlic Penne

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.

As my tastes have changed, my favorite cookbooks have shifted in popularity, too. From the the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, bought because it was the cookbook my Mom had, I moved on to the Joy of Cooking. Before long, the Barefoot Contessa took over my collection and the rest is history.

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.

Broccoli and Garlic Penne
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

serves 4

notes: The original recipe serves 8, but I don't know many people who cook for a group that large every night. Feel free to double it if you do. I've also lightened the original recipe, removing the 1/2 stick of butter and reducing the olive oil. Again, feel free to add more fat, but if you're using good Parmesan cheese, I doubt you'll miss it.

I don't typically cook with extra virgin olive oil but for this recipe I make an exception because the cooking time is so short. If you'd rather not use extra virgin olive oil for cooking, use regular olive oil instead and add a tablespoon of extra virgin at the end, to finish the dish.

Finally, you might have noticed the two different colors of penne in the photo above. To get more whole grains into our diet, I usually cook half regular pasta, half whole wheat. I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Penne Pasta. The only tricky part is that whole wheat pasta typically takes longer to cook. So I throw the whole wheat pasta in first, wait 3 minutes and then add the regular pasta.

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

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook according to the package instructions, usually 9 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and reserve.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the broccoli to the skillet, stir well and sprinkle with black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. 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.
  6. Place in a serving dish, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and add more black pepper if desired.

No comments:

Post a Comment