I love belonging to the Cooking Italy group - not just for the fact that they still talk to me even though I haven't submitted anything for months; and not just for the fact that I love the way that members of this group help each other grow and develop their culinary repertoire and skills with advice about the food we are cooking, offering guidance to each other through our trials, successes and failures; but also for the way in which this group connects with each other "off-blog", so to speak, sharing stuff with each other which is very real and touches us all deeply - a group which is willing to share, connect and trust people who are relative strangers, but who become less "strange" by the week through these shared communications.
Aahhh - food really does bring people together - even in the virtual world - I love that.
Which really brings me to the touchstone of my whole cooking philosophy. As you may have read here before, my food is all about making those connections and is my way of showing the people I care about how much I love them. It is how I keep alive the memories of family and friends no longer in my daily life; it is how I nurture those near and dear to me whenever we come together; and it is how I open my heart and extend the hand of friendship to new acquaintances. You may be reading this on the other side of the world, but I hope you know that the food and stories written here are offered to you with love. This to me is what real food is all about - it is food made from the heart; it is food made with real, fresh, seasonal ingredients; it is food which shows as much respect for the environment from which it is drawn as it does for the people to whom it is offered; it is food that comes out of your kitchen - not out of a box or, worse still, a drive-through; it is food that shows you care, in every possible way. Because I am so passionate about this, I was very excited this week to be invited by Alex at A Moderate Life to participate in the Two for Tuesdays weekly blog hop where other bloggers who care passionately about real food are sharing their recipes, stories and information. I hope you'll go and have a look, and enjoy what some other "real food" bloggers have to offer.
So today's recipe from Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" does double-duty, being submitted to both the Cooking Italy group and Two for Tuesday. It is exactly the kind of dish that I would like to share with friends. It is simplicity itself - let's face it, things don't get much more simple than pasta and broccoli, right?! It is the kind of casual, comfortable, unpretentious food that you can linger, and chat over, and enjoy a good glass of wine with, and yet the little bit of anchovy in the sauce adds enough complexity and sophistication to this dish that it could fit right in on those occasions when perhaps a little more elegance is called for.
Hey, do I hear the stampede of fingers? Does the very mention of anchovy have you reaching for your mouse right now to change pages? Well, just hang on one darn minute. If you, or one of the people you cook for, freak out at the very thought of anchovies I urge you to give them one last try in this recipe before you give up on them completely. I can promise you that this dish does not taste of anchovy, or in the slightest bit "fishy" - rather they melt into the dish, adding a "savouriness" that I can't imagine you could get in any other way, and without which I think this dish would be really rather bland. To be honest, if you're not brave enough to try the anchovy, then don't make this dish at all - don't be tempted to try and just leave it out, as without it the dish would be nothing. My only suggestion for a passable substitution would be bacon - won't taste anything like this version of course, but would still be a pretty nice dish with the broccoli (and let's face it, is there anything that isn't great with bacon? - chocolate, maybe, but I suspect a case could be made for even that).
I also added some toasted walnuts to my final dish - not at all necessary, but just because, well, I can't leave anything alone - the tinkerer in me always has to have a little "tweek" here or there. Secondly, because, although the classic "menage a trois" may not be everyone's idea of the ideal domestic relationship, there are many culinary examples of a trio of ingredients that make the perfect marriage - without being exhaustive tomato-basil-mozzarella or the classic mirepoix of carrots-onions-celery are a couple of excellent examples. I happen to think that broccoli-anchovies-walnuts is another one of those wonderful trinities that just turns out to be perfect. What's your favourite trio of ingredients? Leave me a comment, I'd love to know.
This dish also enabled me to use a whole lot of broccoli, on which I had got a great special this week. Lately, (I think because we have had rather a lot of wet weather for Canterbury) broccoli has been in short supply, and thus extremely expensive, but this week I was excited to snap up at my local greengrocer heads of broccoli for just 79 cents each - they're not big, but still less than half the price of same sized heads at the supermarket, and are just the right size for one meal.
I enjoyed this dish so much that it will definitely become a regular, stand-by meal in my home - one of those great "meal in a hurry dishes" that sacrifices nothing in the way of flavour and goodness. You honestly could have this on the table faster than you could say "takeaway" - I hope you will give it a try.
A word about quantity - Marcella's recipe states that it serves 6. In my opinion this quantity of sauce would maybe feed 4 as an appetiser or part of a multi-course meal; or, as would more likely be the case in our house, would give two generous servings as a main meal.
Adapted from Marcella Hazan's
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
fresh broccoli, about 500g
hot red chilli, finely chopped
(I used dried chilli flakes instead)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 anchovy fillets (depending on size), finely chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup pecorino cheese, freshly grated
generous handful toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
125g pasta per person (I used orecchiette)
Set a large pan of water over high heat and bring to the boil.
While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil, prepare the broccoli. Cut the florets off the stalk, but don't throw the stalk away. Cut the thick, woody base off the stalk, and peel off the thick, dark outer layer of the stalk. Once the water is boiling, salt liberally, add the broccoli and cook until just fork tender.
Remove the broccoli from the water and set aside. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking ...
Cut the broccoli florets into smaller pieces and dice the stalks.
Put the oil in a saute pan and set over low heat. Once the oil is warm (not too hot), remove the pan from the heat, and add the anchovies. Keep stirring and mashing the anchovies into the warm oil to dissolve and make a paste. Add the broccoli (including the stalks) and the chilli (fresh or dried) to the pan, return the pan to the heat, and cook for a few minutes, turning the broccoli regularly to make sure it is well coated.
Reserve a little of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and add to the pan of broccoli and sauce. Toss well, then add the cheeses and toss again. Toss through the walnuts, if using, then serve immediately.
Serve with extra cheese if desired.