Friday, January 27, 2012

Detox January, Week 3: "Chef Boyardee" Broccoli Pasta

Broccoli pasta (it's like pesto!)
I realized that I've given you little other than dessert recipes during Detox January ("Let them eat cake!"), so I think that needs to end today.

But it doesn't end in a bad way, I promise. It ends with a lovely, easy pasta dish that I guarantee will become part of your weeknight repertoire, based on the easiness-to-awesomeness ratio.

Loyal reader Cristina turned me on to this one last year after hearing the story on NPR. Turns out "Chef Boyardee" was a real person: one Ettore "Hector" Boiardi (apparently there needed to be a phonetic dumbing-down of his Italian last name so that waspy America could pronounce it ... sigh).

Boiardi was an accomplished chef and had a successful restaurant in Cleveland when he decided, in true entrepreneurial fashion, to bottle and sell his popular sauce -- which eventually led him into a food manufacturing and importing business.

His whole family, apparently, were and are no slouches in the kitchen, his chef-niece Anna Boiardi included. Last year, she published a cookbook-cum-memoir, Delicious Memories: Recipes and Stories from the Chef Boyardee Family, which includes some of her family's best-loved recipes -- including this broccoli-centric one from her mother.

While I am a huge fan of crispy, barely-steamed broccoli or even raw broccoli, I like most people cannot stand brown, limp, over-cooked broccoli. Bleck. But, believe it or not, that's sort of the concept behind this pasta. Once the broccoli gets to a certain point (not over-cooked, just well-cooked), it completely breaks down and, when combined with olive oil, turns into a kind of pesto.

Did I mention that this all happens IN ONE POT? Ah yes, it's that easy.

Boil the water, cook the broccoli a bit, add the pasta and cook, drain, throw in the olive oil and stir like a fiend so the broccoli breaks down. Viola! Throw in some cheese and you're done.

Cooking the broccoli and pasta together

Stir thoroughly to break down the broccoli florets
No joke.

See? I told you Detox January was not painful. Here we are approaching the final and, so far, you've been eating dessert and now cooking in only one pot.

Stick with me and Chef Boyardee, kids. 

"Chef Boyardee" Broccoli Pasta (adapted slightly from an Anna Boiardi recipe shared with All Things Considered on NPR)

Tip: Be sure to cut as much of the broccoli stem off the florets as possible, as the stems don't "melt down" as much and can end up as chunks in your sauce.

1 1/2 pounds broccoli crowns, stems removed and cut into small florets
1 box (13.25 oz.) multi-grain or whole-wheat pasta
2/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the broccoli and wait for the water to reboil, then add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and broccoli and return both to the pot. Pour in the olive oil and stir thoroughly -- this is what causes the broccoli to break down into a pesto-like sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the cheese.

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  1. Yum, totally making this!!!! Can't beat one pot. And normally I'm not a big fan of whole wheat pasta, I'll bet it's great in this dish.

  2. Can I just say how honored I am to have been mentioned in your blog? You have made my day!! And I'll be whipping this up this weekend. Oh how happy my kids will be.

  3. imagine adding a couple cloves of roasted garlic...mmm

  4. oo! oo! Maybe some sundried tomatoes, too.

  5. Tried it yesterday! it was great :)