Blistered Broccoli Pasta With Walnuts, Pecorino and Mint
The trick to creating deeply browned, pan-seared broccoli involves two things: high heat and no touching. Allowing your florets and stems to sear in an even layer, undisturbed, gives them time to blister without cooking all the way through, so they retain some crunch. While many pasta sauces are finished with starchy pasta water, this one isn’t, since the hot water would strip the broccoli of that color and crunch you worked so hard to achieve. Instead, toss the cooked pasta in the skillet with the broccoli, walnuts and cheese. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon will provide any additional moisture you need.
- Serves: 4 persons
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 12ounces riccioli, fusilli or other short pasta
- ½cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
- ¼to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
- 1bunch broccoli or cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds untrimmed), florets roughly chopped and stalks peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1lemon, zested (about 1 teaspoon) then quartered
- ½cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1cup packed fresh mint leaves or parsley leaves
Step 1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.
Step 2Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the walnuts and red-pepper flakes, if using, and cook, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer walnuts and red-pepper flakes to a small bowl. Season walnuts with a little salt and pepper.
Step 3Add the broccoli to the skillet and toss to coat in the oil. Shake the skillet so broccoli settles in an even layer. Cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Toss and shake to arrange in an even layer again and cook, undisturbed, another 2 to 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Step 4Drain pasta and add to the skillet along with the lemon zest, cheese, toasted walnuts and half the mint; toss to combine. Divide among plates or bowls and top with remaining mint, more cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges, squeezing juice on top, if desired.