A FRIENDLY PASTA DISH, FOR VEGETARIANS TOO
Here's something that a Vegetarian can enjoy as well as the seasoned carnivore, a classic
pairing of Pasta and Vegetables, very very Italian. This pairs Cavatelli (or Cavadeels as we
say) with Broccoli, florets and chopped pieces, but I'm not sure this is an actual Italian dish or
one that was created based on a similiar dish by the Italian immigrants to America. If anyone
knows for sure, please, hit me up. Here is my breakdown on how this dish came to be.
In Italy, particularly the South, and in particular Puglia and Basilicata, parts of the deep south,
the pairing of rustic handmade Cavatelli or Orecchiette with Cima di Rape, or Broccoli Rabe
is a classic regional dish. I don't think there was much Broccoli Rabe being grown in the
U.S. back in those first days of immigration, but there was broccoli. So, as with many of what
we know today as Italian dishes, this is probably another one that you will not find in Italy..
you certainly will find the one made with Broccoli rabe, (or Friarelli) . Are you know thinking,
what does he know? He's trying to tell me this dish my Italian grandparents taught us how to
cook is not Italian! No. No. and No. It's as Italian as it can be, it's the wonderful evolution of
necessity as the mother of invention to bring a comfort dish to life when you are in a new and
different place, possibly without all the exact same ingredients you would have had in your original
homeland. This dish is wildly popular with Italian-Americans and pays no disrespect to the
original dish. Ah...La Famiglia.
Well this is a truly Italian-American snapshot from the very early 1950's..could be in my
parents' home (I wasn't around yet, so, I can't verify that ) with my Grandparents, cousins,
Aunts and Uncles around the table. The Grandparents are Italian...the rest of the room is
Italian-American. It describes in a visual way what Italian-American is. I know, I've been on a
roll with this type of blogpost...it's where my head is these day, so there you go. Maybe there
was a bowl of Cavatelli and Broccoli on the table! My Grandmother made awesome cavatelli.
That I was around for, loved watching her make them, and liked eating them even better.
For serving 4-5, buy a bag of Frozen Ricotta Cavatelli, most Supermarkets carry them, or make
them yourself, even better, but....let's work with the Frozen ones. Put up a large pot of water,
salt it well and when it comes to the boil, add 2 cups of chopped broccoli and Broccoli florets.
Let them cook till just tender, about 8-10 minutes, Remove the broccoli with a strainer from the
pot, or a slotted spoon..leave the water in the pot. Bring it back up to the boil. While you are
waiting...in a wide frying pan, saute' (one anchovy filet , purely optional, I like it, the family likes
it, but you might not, or might...your dish will be delicious with or without it...ok..try it!), 4 thinly
sliced cloves of garlic, and 3 tbs. of olive oil, pinch of pepperoncini. Let this saute' for about
2 minutes on medium, mashing the anchovy, if you are using it into the oil.
Add the broccoli to the pan and
saute' for another 3 minutes. Remove from the pan into a bowl. The water should be boiling again
by now, add the Cavatelli. that's right, add it to the water that was flavored with the broccoli..more
subtle flavor layering, and nothing is wasted. Follow the instructions on the pacakge and just shave
off a little time at the end of the cooking. Drain.
After you've drained them, add just about
1/2 tsp. of olive oil to the pan, place on medium heat and then add the Cavatelli to the pan. Let them
get just a little color and texture by "frying" them , about 2 minutes on one side, then shake the
pan a bit...Add the Broccoli now and continue to saute' for about 3 minutes.. Turn off the heat..
you are almost done. Mix 1/8 cup of Grated Pecorino Romano to the pan, mix well...taste for
seasoning. Add more cheese if you like, more peperoncino too.
Let this sit off the heat now for
10 minutes...flavors will "bloom" here...don't serve immediately. Just my idea, I think it has more
flavor after 10 minutes. Feel free to add a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs to...adds a little
Whatever you do, don't drown the pasta EVER in tons of oil and liquid..you lose the toothsome
chewiness of the Cavatelli and water down the flavor. Non Dimenticare! (don't forget)...less means
more with pasta sauces for the most part. Now serve this to 4-5 hungry people!!