Orecchiette with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Chili-Lemon Pangritata


Yay! We’ve reached March! Despite the fact that – at least in the UK – March can actually be more miserable than February (more wind, more rain), it does have one huge advantage – promise. With every newly-hatched chartreuse bud, with every daffodil held tight in its green jacket, with every brave nosing through of still-chilled soil,  Spring marches ever closer (yes, that pun was intended, however bad).

Today as I topped up the chicken feeders and filled the garden bird feeders it didn’t dawn on me that I had stepped out sans outer garment. Although the temperature is single digit, the air is still and the sun on my back was warm and inviting. I lingered in my shirt sleeves, surveying our modest garden for signs of promise: the delphiniums are well and truly up from their long nap; the Lenten roses in full flower, their cerise cups nodding companionably below one of my favourite winter plants, the blue tit-attracting mahonia Japonica; our various lavenders are bristling with new life and the promise of heady summer scent. And of course the weeds have a head start on all of the above, poking cheekily through paving cracks and spreading blatantly through still-dormant areas of the garden. At least I know what I’ll be doing, trowel in hand, next weekend.

What about you: is your garden springing to attention? What’s up first for you (besides weeds)? Of course you Antipodeans are slowly heading towards Autumn, but I’d still like to know what heralds your Spring. Hopefully by the next post I may have even had a quick lunch (as much for my always-hungry hens as the temperature) in the garden. Let me know when you’ve had your first Spring picnic, and what you ate. 

cheering up my desk today


Speaking of eating, there are now some early spring vegetables to join the winter ones still languishing in produce bins across the land. Tender leeks, squeaky-pink rhubarb and uber-useful spring onions are in full swing, with celeriac, cauliflower, chicory, salsify and shallots all vying for a place in our hearts, and on our plates. But March is primo mese for stupendously nutritious purple sprouting broccoli (aren’t translation websites great?).

I adore the stuff – love the bishopric colour, love the minerally, sharp taste, really love the bang of nutrients in every bite: ‘anti-cancer phytonutrients’ sulforaphane (gives it the nip) and proanthocyanidins (gives it the amazing colour); vitamin C; fibre, including the little-discussed fibre calcium pectate – a cholesterol modulator; energy-giving B5 and iron; antioxidant beta-carotene;  insulin-regulating chromium, and the eye-health phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin.

This purple, long-legged variety of broccoli is Roman in origin and has been grown in the UK since the early 18th century, although its fine slim stalks and loose, flowery head are only now finding wider favour. When buying, look for crisp straight stalks that snap rather than bend when broken. And don’t chuck away the stalks: Young sprouting broccoli has a fine stalk suitable for eating without fiddly peeling or, indeed, throwing away. It is best eaten slightly crunchy (light cooking enhances the anti-cancer compounds), and either steamed or quickly stir fried so as to preserve some of the colour and most of the nutrients. Cooked purple sprouting broccoli will always be mainly green, but it is a vibrant, spring-like green, with a hint of purple if you are lucky.

Incidentally I am featuring this recipe as part of the #greenslove March bloghop, celebrating all things green and edible. Please click on the link to see what else is sauteeing, baking, boiling and mixing with my fellow veg loving food bloggers. Some fantastic recipes already up! My other favourite green recipes on food to glow are: Tamarind and Shittake Tofu with Kale ‘Seaweed‘, Kale-Berry Smoothie, Kale and Italian Sausage Frittata, Spiced Kale Chips, Linguine with Cavolo Nero Sauce, Sweet Potato and Black Kale Open Tart with Pear and Cranberry Slaw, and probably more but perhaps explore for yourself. This recipe is also linking up with Family Friendly Fridays on Fabulicious Food, so be sure and check out all of the family friendly recipes over at Ren’s beautiful site.

This recipe is my version of a relatively common dish. You can also make this without any pasta at all, in which case it makes a superior side for grilled fish or any main protein dish. Pootling around on the Internet I found this delicious-looking James Martin recipe for kung pao broccoli and tofu, which looks super yummy and right up my spicy street; and this more challenging one from Sat Bains, innocently titled ‘organic salmon and brassicas’. Interesting but not for the time poor. I sometimes have purple sprouting broccoli cold in an Asian-ish noodle salad, with plenty of plum vinegar, chili, soy sauce and crunchy shredded veg. Tonight we are having it steamed, alongside this Fish Pie recipe (topped with phyllo rather than potatoes).

Before I get on to the recipe I must, on behalf of my better half and Miss R, say thanks to the wonderful Issy and Nick for a fabulous birthday weekend spent eating, drinking and pottering in and around their rather fabulous Scottish Borders bolt-hole: hope you have recovered from your introduction to southern grits and hot sauce!


Orecchiette with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Chili-Lemon Pangritata

This is literally the first dish I cook when new seasons’ purple sprouting broccoli arrives: The ingredients practically jump unbidden into my basket. Whether purchased from farm shop or supermarket – or cut from the garden- this super- simple recipe showcases purple sprouting broccoli (psb) to punchy perfection. Because you are quite literally having equal amounts of achingly hip, nutrient saturated psb and indecently starchy orecchiette, I am confident this is one of the healthiest pasta dishes around. And it tastes truly divine: minerally, salty, hot (-ish; chilli to taste, or not at all) and comfortingly wholesome. And to any of you anchovy-phobes, be not afraid of my fishy friends: They melt into the finished dish, leaving only a fingerprint-trace of umami savouriness. Get a dinky bottle of best quality anchovies in extra virgin olive oil for the best, cleanest flavour. They keep well upon opening if stored in the fridge. 

My ultimate anchovies are chokingly-expensive Spanish brand Ortiz ‘anchoa del Cantábrico’*, but most any oil-packed, Spanish brand of anchovy will be more than acceptable. Although salt-preserved used to be thought superior, quality Spanish anchovies in olive oil are delicious and can be eaten straight from the jar – nearly as delicate as their salt-preserved cousins. Brett Emerson, at In Praise of Sardines, has an entertaining and informative blog essay entitled “In Praise of Spanish Oil-packed Sardines” that’s worth reading. Very niche.

A word about the pangritata: it’s a southern Italian term for garlic and herb-fried breadcrumbs, sometimes referred to as poor man’s parmesan. ‘Proper’ pangritata uses stale bread, olive oil, garlic and any herb from the kitchen garden (e.g. thyme and oregano), but it tastes and looks fantastic fancied-up with a spike of chilli and lemon zest, too. Try this texturizing topping using your favourite herbs, making more than you need for flourishing on any other pasta dishes, or as a topping for fish. Usually we just hoover up extras with greedy fingers straight from the hot pan. It is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

Pangritata
2+ tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra (Don’t be skimpy with it as it really flavours and crisps the crumbs; otherwise, what’s the point?)
3 oil-packed anchovies, rough chopped (more if you really want to taste them)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ red chilli, deseeded and sliced (and/or stoned dry-cure black olive, chopped)
2 thick slices from day-old country bread loaf (any flavourful, slow-risen or sourdough bread), crusts off
Zest ½ large lemon, divided
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Flaky salt (optional – I tend not to as the anchovies are salty enough for us)

200g fresh purple sprouting broccoli, cut as you like, but include the stems
100g orecchiette (‘ear-shaped’) pasta, or something like trofie, lumache (snail-shaped) or even good old bow tie (pictured)
Juice of ½ lemon

First the pangritata: Heat the oil to medium in a saute pan; add in the anchovies and stir to break up a bit. Let this sizzle and ‘melt’ for a minute before adding in the garlic slices and chilli, or olives. Tear up the bread and tumble in a food processor until you have a mix of crumbs and small nuggets – you don’t want it as fine as bought breadcrumbs. Add it to a sauté pan and stir well to coat the crumbs in the oil and flavourings; fry until golden, stirring in the zest and parsley just before you remove from the heat. Give the tasty crumbs a good stir and set aside. Season with salt if you like.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop in the pasta. For the orecchiette boil for 11 minutes; any other pasta shapes cook for the shortest package-specified time. Stir once or twice, then add in the broccoli, return to the boil and cook for a further two minutes. I usually steam the broccoli separately to preserve nutrients and some colour, but it’s easier to do it all in a one-er. Ladle out about 50 ml/3 tbsp of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and broccoli and return both to the pan. Dress with another tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice. If it looks a bit dry, loosen with the reserved starchy cooking water.

Divide the pasta and broccoli onto two plates and top generously with the crispy, seasoned crumbs. No cheese required!   Serves 2

Note: You can start the pangritata while the pasta is boiling, but I find that if the phone rings or the doorbell goes I can easily ruin both.  Whatever way you do it the pasta should always be cooked when it is to be served – pasta waits for no one.

Gluten-free: This recipe will be great with any gluten-free pasta and bread. We really like it with chickpea pasta and quinoa pasta.

Less calories: Toss the breadcrumbs in ½ tsp oil and bake in a hot oven for five minutes. Fry the anchovies, garlic and chilli in 1 tsp of oil. Forgo the extra tablespoon of oil to dress the pasta and use more pasta water to soften and loosen.

*Ortiz anchovies also available in the UK through Brindisa and specialist delis.

with 'bow ties' and pine nuts


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12 thoughts on “Orecchiette with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Chili-Lemon Pangritata

  1. Such a lovely vibrant and flavorful introduction to the arrival of spring! The afternoon sun has been teasing us with her warmth. But as the sun goes down we are reminded that winter is not entirely gone. We eagerly wait in anticipation for the valley to burst forth with the first lettuces and berries.

    • Ooh, jealous you’ll soon have local berries. Our berries are a few months behind, unless you count the polytunnel stuff. Today is dawning bright, clear & windless. Still jolly chilly though. Our Scottish crops love the cold stuff more than I do! Glad you like the recipe:-)

  2. This dish is beautiful in every way! It’s so full of nutrients it makes me happy just to look at it…I do wish I had a plate of it in front of me now though, lol!

  3. What an absolutely fabulous recipe with some of my favourite ingredients, and the tulips are gorgeous…..such amazing colours, so spring like, so hopeful.
    Karen

  4. Pingback: Family Friendly Fridays March Round Up and Winner | Fabulicious Food

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