Why It Works
- Cooking broccoli for an extended period results in a sauce with savory, meaty flavors.
- Simmering the broccoli in acidic ingredients keeps the pectin in the vegetable from completely breaking down, which helps the sauce retain some texture.
Broccoli is great simply blanched until bright green or roasted until charred and sweet, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it's equally good when it's had the crap cooked out of it. Sometime in the mid-'90s, braised green vegetables seemed to go out of fashion, to the extent that it was nearly impossible to get a vegetable that wasn't cooked al dente in a restaurant. It became common practice for new cooks to undercook their vegetables. Heck, I've even heard some chefs that want their beans cooked al dente, ferchrissakes.
Thankfully, cooked vegetables seemed to come back in vogue right around the same time that chefs stopped calling their mayonnaise aioli and the world is a better place for it.
I first had pasta with slow-cooked broccoli at Jamie Bissonette and Ken Oringer's Coppa in Boston's South End and was blown away by its intense flavor. When cooked down in a rich tomato sauce, broccoli takes on an entirely different character with a deep, mildly sulfurous aroma that borders on meaty in its savoriness.
The key is to make sure your sauce is plenty acidic. This helps the pectin in the broccoli hold its cells together a bit tighter. Rather than reducing to mush, the broccoli develops flavor while still staying intact. Canned tomatoes are acidic on their own, but a glug of white wine adds both acid and flavor to the mix.
Of course, plenty of garlic and good olive oil are essential.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 head broccoli (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/2- to 1-inch florets, tough stems discarded
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped, juice reserved
1 pound hearty short pasta, such as ziti or penne rigate
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add broccoli and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and chile flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and reserved juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is completely tender and broken down, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce. Add parsley leaves and stir to combine. Serve immediately, garnishing with additional extra-virgin olive oil and parsley leaves as desired.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14g||18%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||11%|
|Total Carbohydrate 72g||26%|
|Dietary Fiber 23g||83%|
|Total Sugars 13g|
|Vitamin C 684mg||3,422%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|