Saturday, February 14, 2015

Simple Supper: Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Farfalle

Although I think that there is nothing more comforting than warming stews and braises when blasted by the snowy days of winter, I sometimes feel the need for something a bit fresher and lighter on the tongue. Something that hints that Spring is coming. This dish fits the bill with the freshness of lemon adding zest to the broccoli and pasta.  The broccoli is roasted which gives a heartier flavor than if you simply sauteed or boiled it. Roasting vegetables in a hot oven like this, simply tossed in olive oil with salt and pepper, can transform even the most mundane into something lovely.  Try it with cauliflower, brussel sprouts, zuchinni, eggplant, and peppers! As a bonus, my kids almost always eat vegetables that I prepare this way.  As there is nothing so frustrating for a parent than preparing dinner and having the kids turn their faces away after a bite or two, this last advantage should not be taken lightly!

Feeds 4

2 to 4 heads of broccoli, depending on the size  (more perhaps than you think you need---it shrinks when it cooks)
1 onion
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 lemon
a few rashers of bacon, optional
500 grams of farfalle or your favorite pasta.
parmesan cheese to taste
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put a big pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  Salt generously and throw in your pasta.  Cook the number of minutes as indicated on the box.  Take a cupful of the cooking water before you drain the pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat your oven to 225 C (450F).  Prepare the broccoli by cutting off the stems and breaking the heads into bite-sized florets. Don't throw away the stems! Cut the hard skin off and the inside piece is tender and delicious. The kids and I usually eat these pieces raw as I am cooking but if any survive, they can be roasted with the rest.  Put the cut broccoli onto a baking sheet and sprinkle very generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to make sure that the broccoli is evenly coated in oil. Spread out in one layer on the baking sheet and put in the oven.  Stir once or twice while it is cooking.  They are done when they start to have some color and some bits take on a slight char.  It takes about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces and your oven.

While the broccoli is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Slice the onion in half and then slice again into strips.  Peel the garlic and slice. Slice the bacon into thin strips crosswise, if you are using it. Zest the lemon with a grater and then cut the lemon in half.

Heat a pan on medium high heat and put in about two tablespoons
or so of olive oil.  When the oil is hot, put in the bacon, if you are using it, and the onion.  Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts taking on some color.  Throw in the garlic and stir. Cook further, stirring occasionally, but keeping an eye on the garlic because you don't want it to burn.  As soon as the garlic starts taking on a tiny bit of color (or starts to smell very aromatic) throw in some of the pasta water--about half a cup.  Throw in the lemon zest and squeeze in the juice of half of the lemon.  Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get any lovely caramelized bits into your sauce.  Season with salt.  You can add more pasta water if it all evaporates.

When the pasta is done, mix the pasta with the sauce in the pan and the roasted broccoli. Generously grate in some parmesan.  Toss to mix everything up.  While this pasta does not have much sauce, if it looks and tastes too dry, add in some more olive oil and pasta water.  Taste and adjust the salt, peppar, and lemon juice.

Serve hot with more parmesan and black pepper.  For those who like heat, some red chili pepper flakes would be lovely added into the sauce as it is cooking.

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