Pasta with Broccoli, Cauliflower, or Broccoli Raab

MAKES: 4 About 4 servings

TIME: About 40 minutes

This is the real shortcut version: You use the same water for the broccoli as you do for the pasta. It’s hard to say how much oil you’ll wind up adding to this dish: The answer is enough I cook the garlic in the 1/4 cup listed here, but I usually add a teaspoon or two more per serving at the table, more for flavor than for moisture.

Salt

About 1 pound broccoli, cauliflower, or broccoli raab, trimmed and cut into pieces

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

1 tablespoon chopped garlic, or more to taste

1 pound penne, ziti, or other cut pasta

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Boil the vegetable until it’s fairly tender, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the type (broccoli raab is fastest, cauliflower slowest) and the size of your chunks. Meanwhile, put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook until it begins to sizzle, about a minute; keep warm. Scoop out the broccoli with a slotted spoon or strainer.

Put the broccoli in the skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high; cook, stirring and mashing the broccoli, until it is hot and quite soft.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. When the pasta is not quite done, drain it, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the skillet with the broccoli and a couple of tablespoons of the reserved cooking water; toss with a large spoon until well combined. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, along with some of the pasta water to keep the mixture from drying out. Serve immediately.

Variation

Pasta with Greens. Here, if your judgment is good, you can cook the greens at the same time as the pasta; usually you add them to the boiling water during the last minutes of cooking, but the thick stems of kale or collards may take just about as long as the pasta to become tender. Until you’re confident, follow the basic recipe, using 1 to 11/2 pounds spinach, kale, col-lard, chard, mustard, or other greens instead of the broccoli. If the stems are thick, separate them from the leaves; chop the stems no more than 1 inch long and roughly chop the leaves. Cook the stems or whole greens until tender and proceed with the recipe.

10 Ways to Boost Pasta with Broccoli, Cauliflower, or Broccoli Raab

Just a few of the ideas to make this dish more flavorful; many can be combined.

  1. Cook 3 or 4 dried chiles along with the garlic or stir in hot red pepper flakes when you toss the pasta.
  2. Add a teaspoon or so of minced garlic to the mixture about 30 seconds before you turn off the heat.
  3. Cook several threads saffron in the oil along with the garlic.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of so of Traditional Pesto when you toss the pasta.
  5. Stir in a small can of tomato paste or a cup of chopped cherry or regular tomatoes when you combine the pasta and vegetable.
  6. Add a couple of tablespoons of Tapenade just when you toss the pasta.
  7. Add 1 cup sliced mushrooms to the oil once the garlic sizzles and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until you add the vegetable, then proceed.
  8. Toss in a cup or so of quick-cooking, fragile vegetables during the last 30 to 60 seconds of cooking: think pea shoots, shelled fresh peas, chopped spinach, or arugula.
  9. Stir in 1/2 cup of so of Roasted Red Pepper pure when you toss the pasta.
  10. Serve with a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.