This is an easy and lovely dish using one of my favorite pastas, the tiny orecchiette. Shaped like (and named after) a "small ear", its delicately curved, disc-like shape is perfect for capturing tiny bits of deliciousness in every bite... hence the broccoli. Cutting the broccoli florets into very small pieces ensures that they will nestle into the hollows in the pasta, along with the pine nuts and grape tomato halves, to delicious effect.
1/2 lb (8 oz) orecchiette pasta
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb (a medium sized) broccoli crown
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 ts crumbled red chili pepper flakes
a large handful of grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 TB pine nuts
freshly shredded Parmesan to top
salt to taste
Here is how I time things so that they all finish simultaneously.
Start your pasta boiling water and when it is getting close to boiling (but not really there yet), begin to chop your garlic and broccoli. Cut the broccoli a bit obsessively (and wastefully, to be honest). You want only the florets, chopped to their smallest parts, discarding the stems and stalk. Mince your garlic.
Add pasta to the boiling, salted water. Cook for the amount of time dictated by the package (usually about 11 minutes).
Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds and then add the broccoli. Lightly salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes. Let it rest at times, so that you get a bit of caramelization on the broccoli.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, lightly toast your pine nuts over medium low heat. Toss them frequently, since they burn easily. As soon as you see them begin to get a golden hue (after about 2 minutes or less), add them to the broccoli.
When broccoli is wilting and beginning to get a glossy, garlicky coating and the pasta only has a minute or two left on it, add the halved tomatoes to the broccoli skillet. These should only cook for about 2 minutes, long enough to warm through but not really break down. You want them to retain their shape.
Drain pasta and add to the broccoli pan. Mix well. Salt to taste. Serve immediately, topped with shaved Parmesan.
Serves 2 with seconds or 4 with salad and bread.
* adapted from a recipe in the Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe Cookbook to have no pancetta but a ton of flavor anyway.