More than 20 years ago I spent the summer living in Washington D.C. and a college friend took me to an Italian restaurant in Dupont Circle. Neither one of us had much money but it was great food although not a “red” style Italian restaurant, meaning it was not typical meatballs, tomato sauce, and spaghetti fare. In fact it was the first time I had had a pasta dish that combined sweet and spicy in the form of raisins and red pepper flakes. While I could understand that red pepper flakes would be part of Italian cuisine I was shocked that raisins would be included. Years later with my expanded knowledge of Mediterranean cooking in general, of course raisins would make sense, since they are simply dried grapes, and grapes are one of the major crops of Italy!
I was recalling that summer recently and remembered that meal and decided to recreate it. It was fantastic! The crisp tender broccoli pairs with the sweet plump raisins gorgeously and the red flakes finish with a slight kick. The olive oil works like a conductor to make it all come together and your mouth sings!
This dish is also typically Italian since it uses simple, inexpensive ingredients to produce incredible results. It also is a great pantry dish since only the broccoli and garlic need be fresh so this is something that is pretty easy to whip together when you feel like you have no time to cook.
I’ll be sending this to Chaya at The Comfy Cook for this week’s Presto Pasta Night. As always, if you’re interested in joining in the fun please send your submissions to chayathecomfycook (at) yahoo (dot) com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com.
Ruth, founder of Presto Pasta Night is always looking for hosts of the roundup, and having done it myself once I can attest that it is both easy and fun and a great way to meet new bloggers. If you’re interested in hosting, contact Ruth at the same address above.
Broccoli and Pasta, Sicilian Style
1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 lb tubular pasta (I used fusili/rotini)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in skillet or in toaster oven until just browning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
red pepper flakes to taste
Steam broccoli until al dente and remove from heat; allow to continue to steam while you prepare pasta. Cook pasta as directed. Drain and add garlic and stir in, allowing garlic to cook slightly from heat of pasta. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil over pasta and add salt. Add broccoli and toss well. Add remaining olive oil, pine nuts, raisins and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately or at room temperature.