Broccoli’s Saucy Side

Fusilli with broccoli and anchovies.

Italians cook broccoli longer than we do in the United States, until it is quite a bit softer and darker than we are accustomed to. This has its advantages, because soft broccoli can be mashed with the back of a spoon, and the broken-down vegetable is very nice as a sauce with pasta.

I took the Italian approach recently, but I cooked the broccoli for only five to six minutes initially (Italians cook it for twice as long), which is long enough to render it soft but not so long that the broccoli loses its bright color and fresh flavor. I chopped the cooked broccoli finely, then melted anchovies in olive oil with garlic, added the broccoli, moistened it with some pasta cooking water and cooked it a little more.

I tossed this heady mixture with fusilli, a perfect marriage of pasta and sauce, as the broccoli, now almost puréed and perfectly seasoned, lodged in the coils of the fusilli in the most delightful way.

This is Italian country cooking at its best, a simple dish that requires few ingredients and very little time. Use the same pot of water that you use to cook the broccoli for the pasta. Then finish the broccoli and anchovy mixture in a pan while the pasta is cooking, and toss the pasta with the sauce right in the pan. It’s a great way to elevate broccoli from ubiquitous side dish — one that, let’s face it, we can get bored with — to the center of the plate.

Recipe: Fusilli With Broccoli and Anchovies

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