Up until a few days ago, I had no idea what orecchiette was. Come to find out, it’s merely another shape of pasta. It sort of looks like small shells, but it’s a bit thicker with more firmness. It’s made up of the same exact ingredients as most other pastas, so I could have easily substituted the orecchiette for something else. Since this was a new experience for me, I decided to go with what the recipe called for.
I’ve been making so many sandwiches lately that I almost forgot there were other types of dishes to enjoy. I had to switch tracks to get back to something I could put in a bowl. When I found a recipe titled Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts and Basil from Curtis Stone‘s cookbook, What’s For Dinner?, I get excited. I thought about how much something like this was right up my alley.
I’m glad I went ahead with this one because I really liked it. Any time I get to toast pine nuts, or in this case, pecans, I know I’m in for a good time. There’s such a distinct difference in flavor when you toast these things. Also, browning butter and using it as a highlight in a recipe is to die for. When butter is browned, it gives off a nutty flavor, which can really add to the flavor profile of a dish. In the case of this recipe, an entire stick is used and the nutty butter flavor truly shines through.
I made a few substitutions for this recipe. First, I switched out the pine nuts and used pecans. While both of these ingredients are quite expensive, I already had a bag of pecans in the refrigerator from a previous recipe. In my opinion, using pecans is better than using pine nuts anyway. Also, I switched out the basil for parsley. The grocery store I shop at didn’t have the large bag of basil that I usually purchase and I wasn’t about to spend $5.99 for only four ounces of the stuff. I’ve got 18 basil plants growing in the garden right now, so I’ll have to save up all the recipes that call for it and put them together in a few weeks. I think it’s smart to use what’s in season.
When I was shopping for broccoli, I found that there were two types offered; one was called regular broccoli and the other was called broccoli florets. The regular broccoli had nice long stems and the broccoli florets had short stems that wouldn’t have offered the same distinctiveness after being trimmed from the head. Even though the regular broccoli was a tad more expensive, I decided to purchase it. I wanted a specific look for this dish.
Overall, I enjoyed this bowl of food. There are relatively few ingredients, but what there is offers a lot of flavor. It does need seasoning with salt and pepper, but it’s filling and fun to watch come together.
Makes: 4 Servings
1 Pound Fresh Broccoli
1 Pound Dry Orecchiette
1 Stick Butter, Unsalted
1/2 Cup Parsley, Chopped
1/2 Cup Pecans, Toasted and Coarsely Chopped
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Of course, if you’d rather use basil, by all means, use that. Again, I decided to go with what was available at the time. If I were to prepare this recipe again and if I had an abundance of basil on hand, I’d definitely go with it.
Prep the Ingredients
To start off with, you’ll need to prep all the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. It’ll be much faster and simpler if you have everything in front of you before you even turn the stove on.
First, trim the broccoli so you’re left with individual pieces. Try to keep the stems as long as possible. You’ll get more food out of the deal and it’ll look better to boot.
I put the orecchiette in a bowl simply to take a photo of it. I wanted you to know what it looks like. I also like to see my ingredients on the counter, ready for use. It brings me comfort.
Next, I washed and coarsely chopped the fresh parsley. I stored the ingredient in a bowl.
Finally, I coarsely chopped the pecans and toasted them in a small skillet over medium heat. I knew they were finished when I could see them changing color and they became fragrant. Also, when I tasted one of the pieces, it had much more of a crunch to it than if it hadn’t been toasted. Hands down, toasted pecans are awesome.
In a large pot, add 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of regular table salt. Bring the water to a boil. When boiling, add the broccoli pieces and let cook between 3 and 5 minutes. The goal here is to cook the broccoli until it turns bright green and becomes somewhat tender. Don’t overdo it because you’ll be cooking it a bit more later on.
When it’s finished, scoop all the broccoli from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, shake off and place in the same bowl you took it from. Keep the water boiling.
Cook the Orecchiette
Pour the pound of dry orecchiette into the same pot the broccoli cooked in. The water is flavored from the broccoli and the salt, so this should offer a nice outcome. Also, don’t worry about the water being slightly green. That only adds to the fun. Cook the pasta, while stirring, between 8 and 11 minutes or until it’s just tender enough to be eaten. Don’t overcook the pasta. It should be right past the point of sticking to your teeth.
When finished, dip a measuring cup into the pasta water and scoop out 1/2 cup. You’ll likely need this flavored water later on. After that, strain the pasta in a colander and set aside.
Brown the Butter & Add Broccoli
Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. When to temperature, add the entire stick of unsalted butter and cook, while stirring, for about 2 minutes. When you start seeing small droplets of brown in the butter, add the broccoli to the skillet and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
Add Remaining Ingredients
After the broccoli has cooked in the skillet for a few minutes, go ahead and pour the orecchiette pasta in along with the broccoli. Stir everything together. Then, add in the 1/2 cup of chopped parsley, the 1/2 cup of toasted pecans and the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir those ingredients into the others. Salt and pepper to taste and if the mixture is too dry, add in some of the reserved cooking water, while stirring, until it’s to the desired consistency.
When finished, divide among some plates and serve. Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over each dish as well.
The Final Dish
This is a nice dish. It’s fairly quick to prepare, so it would be good for almost any night. Also, it tastes great and is rather filling, so it’ll satisfy even the toughest of customers.
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