When I was a child, I was a broccoli feen. That may sound super strange. But, it’s true. It’s probably because my mother would feed me pasta with broccoli. Leave it to pasta to get a kid to eat their veggies.
Origins of Spaghetti with Broccoli
Pasta with broccoli is a classic dish in Italy, especially in the South. I’d say from Rome down you begin to find an abundance of brassica with pasta. From regular broccoli to romanesco to cime di rapa, all taste wickedly delicious with pasta.
It’s no wonder growing up Italian-American, I ate boat loads of cavatelli and broccoli. My Nonna made it. My local pizzerias made it too. Now? Who know’s. Apparently people want cauliflower crusts, but still want to watch the Sopranos. I think the two together is heresy, but I digress…
So, SPAGHETTI WITH BROCCOLI. Let’s talk about it. The lengthy pieces of spaghetti are the perfect contrast for the bits of broccoli. If you even wanted to get a little crazy, you could add vongole (clams) into this. Either way, it tastes absolutely delicious.
Mastering the Aglio, Olio, and Peperoncino Method
Quickly, I want to dive into the foundation of this recipe: aglio, olio, and peperoncino. This translates to garlic, oil, and chili pepper.
These ingredients create a core piece of Southern Italian cooking. You could even just eat pasta in these 3 ingredients alone. But, with broccoli, the dish becomes something extra special.
All you need is an abundance of QUALITY Italian extra virgin olive oil, sliced garlic (not minced,) and chopped dried Italian red peppers. Dried red pepper flakes work as well (I used them in this recipe, as it was all I had on hand. I believe in prioritizing ingredients you have before going out and buying more stuff.)
So what do you do with these ingredients? First, you slowly heat the olive oil with the garlic, allowing the garlic to release all its delicious oils and aromas. Add in the peperoncino and allow it all to gently sauté together. It is very important that the heat is not too high. You do not want to burn the garlic or pepper.
So, let’s dive in how to make this super duper EASY Italian pasta dish not a single person can resist.
How to Make Spaghetti with Broccoli
Boil your salted water
You will need a large pot to fit your spaghetti. Remember: you want your water as salty as the sea!
Choose your pasta
I kept it simple: DeCecco Spaghetti No. 2 – only needs around 10 minutes til al dente.
Chop and wash your broccoli into small crowns and stems
Stems cook faster than the crowns so you want to add them individually to your salted water.
Add broccoli to boiling water
STEMS FIRST – let these cook for a couple of minutes. Then, toss in your crowns.
Grab a pan and add a few glugs of olive oil to it
Heat the oil over a medium flame.
Slice your garlic
Add this into heated oil, along with some peperoncino. Allow garlic to become aromatic, making sure it doesn’t burn. You can add in some white wine if you like too.
When broccoli is almost tender, add it to your pan
You can also cook your pasta with your broccoli. But, I like my broccoli to still have texture.
Add your spaghetti to the boiling broccoli water
Check that it is still adequately salty
Allow your broccoli to cook on a low heat
Add in a good ladle of pasta water as the broccoli, aglio, olio, and peperoncino simmer.
When pasta is just al dente, add it straight into your pan.
Tongs are super handy here!
Give it all a good toss
Test out your Chef skills. If there isn’t much sauce, add another ladle of pasta water. You want your spaghetti to have a bit of ‘sauce’
Finish your pasta with a drizzle of zesty olive oil
A good squeeze of lemon works here too, along with a generous sprinkle of parmigiano if you please.
And that’s it! I hope you adored this Nonna’s spaghetti with broccoli recipe. It is a tried and true recipe that is guaranteed to make you happy, any time of the day, week, or year!