Blistered Broccoli Pasta with Walnuts, Pecorino and Mint
The key to achieving perfectly browned, pan-seared broccoli lies in two crucial factors: high heat and minimal disturbance. By letting the florets and stems sear evenly without disturbance, they have the opportunity to blister without becoming fully cooked, thus preserving a desirable crunch.Instead of using hot water, combine the cooked pasta directly in the skillet with the broccoli, walnuts, and cheese. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon will suffice to provide any additional moisture necessary.
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- ½ ounces of Riccioli fusilli, or any other short pasta
- ½ cup of olive oil plus extra for drizzling
- ½ cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon of optional red pepper flakes
- 1 bunch of broccoli or cauliflower approximately 1 ½ pounds untrimmed, with florets, roughly chopped and stalks peeled and sliced to ¼ inch thickness
- Zest of 1 lemon about 1 teaspoon, then quartered
- ½ cup of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1 cup of packed fresh mint leaves or parsley leaves
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it is al dente.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the walnuts and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook, stirring, until they turn golden and fragrant, which should take about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the walnuts and red pepper flakes to a small bowl. Season the walnuts with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Introduce the broccoli into the skillet and ensure it's evenly coated with the oil by tossing it. Shake the skillet gently to let the broccoli form an even layer. Leave it undisturbed to cook for 2 minutes. Then, toss and shake the skillet once more to redistribute it evenly and continue cooking without disturbance for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then remove the skillet from the heat.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet along with the lemon zest, cheese, toasted walnuts, and half of the mint. Toss everything together to combine. Divide the mixture among plates or bowls, and garnish with the remaining mint, more cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over the dish, if desired.