Broccoli and Courgette Orecchiette

Here are a few words I would use to describe this meal: indulgent, traditional, blindingly delicious, and elegantly simple. It is not difficult to make, and if you manage to restrain yourself from finishing it off right away, left overs are also irresistible heated up the next day.

I think the original recipe showed some restraint, but over the years making this I have focused on maximizing the things I love, so you can, if you want to, (though why you would, I cannot imagine) reduce some of the following quantities. Start by putting on two pots of water to boil – a large one for the orecchiette (add a dash of salt to this) and a smaller one for the broccoli – this will save you time later. Finely chop 5-7 cloves of garlic (more if you are cooking for lots than if you are just cooking for yourself, but I always tend to make a lot of this). In a very large frying pan pour a large glug of extra-virgin olive oil – I would guess maybe two or three tablespoons worth – and place on medium heat (if it is too hot it will start to spit). Add the garlic, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, and while that is browning open up a small tin (or jar) of anchovies and roughly chop about half of them (you can add more if you like – in fact with a tin I tend to just add them all). Add the chopped anchovies to the pan along with some of the oil they come in (all of it if you are using a whole tin) and then leave on medium heat. The following things will happen: 1) The garlic will continue to brown and shrink a little – keep making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 2) The anchovies will eventually dissolve into the oil – you should aid this process by breaking them up a bit in the pan with a wooden spoon. 3) It will begin to smell more wonderful than frying onions after a long day of exhausting work.

While the garlic and anchovies are doing their thing, slice up 3 courgettes (zucchinis). You will find this ends up being the most delicious bit, so there would be no harm in adding even more one if your frying pan is big enough and they are not too big. The slices don’t have to be extremely thin, but courgettes (zucchinis) take a longish time to cook, so if they are too thick you will be waiting for longer. Once they are chopped, add them to the pan, but make sure first that the anchovies have fully dissolved (if not give them a bit more of a bash with the wooden spoon until they do). Turn the heat up a little and make sure to turn the courgettes (zucchinis) occasionally so that they brown a bit on both sides.

Orecchiette takes about 15-20 minutes to cook, so now is a good time to put it on. Remember that you don’t actually need a huge amount for this meal as the broccoli and courgettes add about half the bulk.

As the courgettes (zucchinis) cook, break up one or two heads of broccoli into little florets. Drop the broccoli into the other pot of boiling water and boil only until it has just changed colour, 2-3 minutes. Drain well and add to the frying pan, mixing it in with the existing ingredients and keeping on the heat. At this point you will have a bit of time free, so grate a large pile of parmesan cheese and roughly chop half a bunch of flat-leafed (European) parsley and put them to one side.

When the pasta is done, drain it well, and add to the frying pan (this is why you need a big pan as by this stage it should be pretty full) and mix together with the vegetables. After a few minutes turn off the heat, add the cheese while it is still in the pan and toss through (the heat of everything will help it to melt. At the last second, toss in the parsley, and then serve.

And there you are – it sounds complicated, but only because I know this recipe so well I feel the need to go into minute detail. You can substitute one of the vegetables for cauliflower, though it doesn’t soak the flavour up as much as the courgettes (zucchinis). You can leave out the parsley, though it cuts the very salty taste of the meal nicely (I forgot to add some this time, which I regretted). If you are eating it the next day, put a little more olive oil in a frying pan and add the pasta – it will lose some of its saltiness, so add some salt, and fry until it has warmed up. The cheese will go a little crisp this way, making it just as good as it was the evening before.

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3 thoughts on “Broccoli and Courgette Orecchiette

  1. Finn and I have this at home a lot, but just before serving we add a handful of rough breadcrumbs (made by blending stale sourdough) that have been fried in olive oil with garlic, salt, lemon rind and toasted almonds.

    Too good. Seriously.

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