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Lemon Pasta with Roasted Broccoli

I’ll bet a lot of you are like me and decide what’s for dinner by looking in your fridge or pantry to see what’s on hand. In this case, it was a small head of broccoli and a bag of pasta that got my creative juices flowing. But it wasn’t just any pasta – it was this lemon pasta I bought at Claudio’s in Philadelphia a few months ago. I’ve used it before and it’s really as yellow as this photo and perfect for this dish. It’s available by mail order here.

And what better occasion to pick a lemon from my small lemon tree than for this recipe? This plant, which enjoys warm sunshine and moist sea air during the summer, comes indoors for the winter. I’ve had the plant for a few years and while it bore fruit last year too, I waited too long to pick it because I hated to lose the decorative look of the yellow fruit hanging from the branches. By the time I got around to plucking the lemons last year, they had dried out, a mistake I wasn’t going to make this year.

The sauce comes together quickly while the pasta is cooking, so get the broccoli into the oven and start making the sauce, sautéeing the leek and garlic, then adding wine, lemon rind and lemon juice. Add the pasta to the pan just before it gets to the al dente stage, pouring in a little of the pasta water to help it finish cooking.

When it’s al dente, add a small amount of cream and stir to meld all the flavors together. Don’t worry if the sauce is a little loose. Once you add the parmesan cheese, it will thicken a bit.

When the pasta is cooked, add the roasted broccoli, parmesan cheese and mix well. Serve in a warm bowl so the pasta doesn’t cool down too quickly.

 

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Broccoli
 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ pound pasta
  • a small head of broccoli florets, bottoms peeled
  • olive oil, salt and pepper to season the broccoli
  • 1 leek, sliced (or one large shallot)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. butter
  • rind of half a lemon, minced
  • ½ cup white wine (or Prosecco)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • pasta water
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
Instructions
  1. Roast the broccoli in a 425 degree oven, smeared with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Start the pasta to boil while you make the sauce.
  3. Saute the leek and garlic in the olive oil and butter until softened.
  4. Add the white wine and cook at high heat until reduced.
  5. Lower heat and add the juice of half a lemon (or less if using a "lemon" pasta as I did.)
  6. Cook the pasta until it has about one minute to go, leaving it "al dente" or even a little harder.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the pot and finish cooking in the liquid, adding pasta water to continue the cooking.
  8. When the pasta is fully cooked, but still al dente, add the heavy cream, and stir in the roasted broccoli florets and parmesan cheese.
 

Broccoli Romano

Broccoli Romano

Broccoli romano – Until five or six years ago, I had never heard of it, much less tasted it. Flashback to a dinner at “La Cisterna,” a restaurant in Rome, when our waiter “Romeo” rips the menus out of our hands and announces, “Stasera mangierete il migliore abbacchio in tutto Roma,” or “Tonight you will eat the best baby lamb in all of Rome.” He proceeds to choose our entire meal for us, including a platter of broccoli romano sauteed in olive oil, garlic, salt and a little red pepper. I was immediately infatuated with the adorable green vegetable, (and he was right about the lamb) and saw it in nearly every market in the city. I eat it every time I’m in Italy. But finding it here in the northeastern U.S. is a little difficult. I’ve seen it at Whole Foods, but only as a miniature head. And if you wanted to buy enough to serve for a dinner party, the cost would be so steep you might as well book a flight to Italy (well, not really, but any excuse to travel there and I’m ready.) So you can imagine my joy recently when I stumbled across the vegetable at a local organic farm with a friend for the annual “pig out day,” the last harvest of the year.
Whenever I’m in Rome and near a kitchen, I usually prepare broccoli romano as a side dish just the way I had it at “La Cisterna” – parboil it first, drain it, then toss it in a saute pan with some olive oil, garlic, salt and a little bit of red pepper flakes. It’s also delicious with a gratinee of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top. But after arriving home from the farm earlier this week, I decided to throw together a pasta dish for lunch, using the broccoli romano. If you can’t find it, the recipe could be made just as easily with many other vegetables – regular broccoli, broccoli rape, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini – anything. It will be good, but it won’t transport you back to Rome (and Romeo) like the broccoli romano does for me.

Pasta with broccoli romano
(serves two)

1/2 pound pasta, any type
florets of broccoli romano, about 1 – 1/2 cups
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
garlic, three large cloves
salt, black pepper
crushed red pepper flakes
chopped parsley
parmesan cheese

Heat a large pot of salted water and add the pasta while you make the rest of the recipe.
Trim the broccoli romano into bite size florets. Parboil in water for about five minutes and drain. Heat half the olive oil in the pan, add the garlic and saute a minute or two. Add the drained broccoli romano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir for a few minutes then add a small amount of the pasta water (1/4 cup or so) to the broccoli romano and put the lid on the pot. Cook for another five minutes on low heat, being careful not to burn it. Lift the lid and test the broccoli romano to see if it’s cooked. Make sure to cook it long enough until it’s tender to the bite. Italians like their pasta al dente, but not their vegetables. If there is water remaining in the pan, remove the lid and turn up the heat to help evaporate the water. Drain the pasta and add to the vegetable mixture in the saute’ pan. Mix everything together, adding the chopped parsley. Off the heat, stir in the remaining olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese.