I haven’t been a difficult teenager. I would spend my afternoons after school either attending an English theatre activity or quietly doing my homework at home. I had always more than secondary parts during our theatre activity as I was not a talented actress or singer, but how I loved every single minute that I spent in company of Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare, surrounded by their immortal words.
When we dramatised The Canterville Ghost my role was to scream out loud from behind the curtains in three different moments. I would put all the air I had in my lungs to perform a perfect scream, and I am proud to say that I managed to startle all the audience.
With A Midsummer Night’s Dream I had a slightly more relevant role, as I was one of the fairies.
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire.
These were my lines, right at the opening of Scene I. Throughout the play I would also dance and sing, hidden among the other fairies. That was something one could use to blackmail me today.
At home, I would slowly work my way through homework. It was not painful nor boring, just something I had to do. I would take the whole afternoon to translate from ancient Greek and Latin and to study pages and pages of philosophy, history, English, Italian. I quite enjoyed those hours, especially the unmissable afternoon tea at five sharp with my mum, grandma and sister. We would share a cup of steaming black tea and a few biscuits to dunk, usually I would already be wearing my pajamas, mainly during winter afternoons, something I still do with great pleasure. I gave everything for granted back then, but if I look back at those years, I realise how blessed and lucky I was.
Those were the years when I discovered my love for broccoli, too.
I would do my homework up until dinner time. At 7.30pm I would leave all my books and notebooks to meet my mum in the kitchen: it was time for my favourite TV series, a detective story set in Austria with an handsome detective and a German shepherd dog, which, needless to say, was my favourite character. I would sit there, at the kitchen table, often with a book in my hands, while mum in the background would prepare dinner. This is when she introduced broccoli into my diet, straight out of a plastic bag from the freezer. They were cooked until collapsing in olive oil and garlic, sometimes she would add one or two anchovy fillets. I learnt to love that green fluffy mess to bits.
I’ve worked my way through the broccoli world as well. Now they come from the farmers’ market with leaves and stalks still on, not from a plastic bag. Though, I still adore to cook them until mushy, doused in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a pinch of chilli pepper. Sometimes I add grated ginger, sometimes anchovy fillets and fleshy black olives.
They come as a side dish which is able to steal the scene to the main course, or, more often, as a condiment for pasta.
Pasta with broccoli
I’ve been eating this pasta for the last twenty years of my life. I’ve been cooking it quite often for Tommaso in the last three years as it is easy, it allows you to eat your good share of vegetables in one go and, mostly, it’s so good you’ll want to eat the mushy garlicky broccoli by the spoonful, even before adding the pasta. I wonder why I waited for so long to share it. It is simple and straightforward, but this is how we eat in our daily life, so why not to share the secret with you?
I already posted about the Italian habit of cooking vegetables until soft, mushy and collapsing. This is another great example of how delicious a serving of overcooked broccoli could be. Forget your crisp steamed broccoli barely touched by heat and olive oil, these will surrender to the pasta and embrace it in a cheese, garlicky sauce.
Get ready to discover your next weeknight dinner.
- 800 g of broccoli
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- Chilli pepper, to taste
- 160 g of pasta
- Pecorino toscano
- Rinse the broccoli under running water and collect the florets in a large pan. Do not throw the stalk away: peel it and cut in small cubes, then add it into the pan. Add the garlic clove and the chili pepper. Pour into the pan a glug of extra virgin olive oil and a glass of water, add a generous pinch of salt and cover with a lid.
- Cook on low flame until the water has steamed the broccoli and has been absorbed. Remove the lid and finish to cook the broccoli. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil and mash the broccoli with a wooden spoon, frying them in olive oil. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta al dente, drain it and pour it into the pan with the broccoli. Toss the pasta with the mushy broccoli, add grated pecorino toscano to taste and stir to cover the pasta with broccoli. Serve immediately with more shaved cheese on top.