Orecchiette con i brocolli

February 22, 2017
Family Verdict:


400g brocolli broken into small florets

500g orecchiette

3 dried red chillis, flaked

3 cloves garlic, slivered

2 thick slices of pancetta, cubed (about 100g)

50g parmesan, freshly grated

EV olive Oil

Boil a pot of water, add salt. 

In a large frying pan, add cubed pancetta–about two big slices worth. Add a splash of olive oil, raise the heat and let the pancetta start to brown. 

When it’s getting closer to brown than not-brown, add broccoli florets–about two heads worth–to the boiling salted water. 

Add 2 or 3 cloves of slivered garlic to the pancetta and some dried red pepper flakes. (Watch the garlic: don’t let it burn.) 

When the broccoli is just cooked, but still al dente (1 or 2 minutes) lift with a slotted spoon into the skillet with the pancetta and garlic. 

Now drop orecchiette into that same salted broccoli water; stir it all around so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself. 

Lower the heat on the broccoli and if the pan is too dry, add some pasta cooking water. Keep it on the lowest flame while the pasta cooks. 

When the pasta’s just al dente (9 minutes later) drain and add to the frying pan with the broccoli and pancetta (it’s ok if some pasta water gets in, it helps make the sauce). Toss all around until everything’s coated and the pasta’s totally cooked through and then, off the heat, add copious amounts of Parmesan cheese and one final drizzle of olive oil


So here we go - buoyed up by the arrival of "the Gastronomy of Italy" and the imminent arrival of spring I set off on my Italian discovery journey. Now I have made a version of this dish many times myself but I thought I would give the reins to Ms Del Conte and see if she could produce a superior tasting dish to my normal one. I must confess I do not add cheese to this normally (but Ms DC does, and so does River Cafe Easy, so who am I to argue...) and I also normally use fresh rather than dried chilli. Oh and I don't normally put any anchovies or raisins into it... Actually I switched allegiance at this point from Anna Del C to River Cafe, who had a simpler take, as I didn't want to fuss about too much

The eagle eyed among you will notice that I didn't have any Orecchiette either, but rather used Penne. It is all I had and, while the brocolli does not nestle into it in the cute way it is meant to, I don't think the aesthetics alter the taste (though I get that they alter the anticipation of the taste, and therefore...) Anyway. I didn't have any pancetta either (I own up, I had a piece of brocolli and was looking for something to use it for),, so I crumbled up a sausage I had to lend some porky flavour. And I confess that following the instructions given in River Cafe's recipe I also managed to (almost) burn the garlic which I don't think helped. I think adding it after you have cooked off the pancetta is a better bet.

All in all this version of this dish was not a success. The dried chilli hardly made its presence felt - and given the cooking method I don't think that is a surprise. I much prefer fresh. Also the cheese made everything cloying and claggy where this dish should be fresh and vibrant. So this version gets a thumbs down (from me) but make it with fresh chilli and no cheese, but plenty of olive oil and it is an all time favourite. The things we learn.... Maybe I should try Anna's version - I just need to buy the ingredients!

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