Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spicy, Garlicky Corkscrew Pasta

Pasta + veggie + cheese is a versatile formula that can hardly go wrong. This recipe is one such example of a magical alchemical combinations of those elements that results in wild success. Crisp, caramelized broccoli blends seamlessly with pungent sweet and chewy sundried tomatoes and creamy, pungent goat cheese. Red pepper flakes add a punch of spice (which I would happily increase if serving only myself) and (high-quality) Parmesan cheese dusts everything with enough umami to make the absence of meat only a passing thought. Although this is a winning combination, I could see easily substituting cauliflower for the broccoli and olives and/or capers for the sundried tomatoes, with that only being one of many stunning possible combinations. It's a great weeknight dinner, full of whole grains, vegetables, and most importantly, flavor, that can be whipped up in the time that it takes for moo shu pork to arrive on your doorstep. A classic formula that can become a tribute to the season, this recipe, whether used verbatim or merely as a template, is something every home chef should have in their back pocket.

Spicy, Garlicky Corkscrew Pasta with Broccoli, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Goat Cheese
adapted from The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton
serves 4

1/2 pound dried whole wheat cavatappi, fusili, or other corkscrew-shaped pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin live oil, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound small broccoli florets, cut into pieces about 1 to 1 1/4-inch long and 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide
1/2 cup thinly sliced drained oil-packed sundried tomatoes
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled while still cold
1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put a colander in the sink and place a glass liquid measure next to it. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Take the pot off the heat and, before draining the pasta, ladle or pour about 2/3 cup of the pasta water into the glass measure. Drain the pasta in the colander and let it sit, loosely covered with foil or a pot lid.

2. Have ready a small heatproof bowl near the stove. In a large nonstick stir-fry pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic begins to simmer in the oil. Cook for just about 30 seconds more to infuse the oil. (Do not let the garlic brown.) Pour and scrape all the seasoned oil into the heatproof bowl and reserve. Wipe the pan out with a paper towel.

3. Return the pan to heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and raise the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot (it will loosen up), add the broccoli and 1 teaspoon salt and stir well. (I like a silicone spatula for this). The pan will seem crowded and the broccoli may look dry, but don't worry; the broccoli will shrink and give off moisture as it cooks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli has shrimp (it will mostly fit in a single layer in the pan), all the florets have turned bright green, and most have a little browning on them, about 10 minutes.

4. Measure out 1/3 cup of the pasta water (save the rest) and pour it into the stir-fry pan. Quickly add the sun-dried tomatoes. Then cover the pan briefly (if you don't have a id, improvise with a sheet pan) and continue cooking until the water as simmer down to almost nothing (this will happen in just 15 to 20 seconds). Uncover and remove the pan from the heat.

5. Add the drained pasta to the pan, season it with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and drizzle it with the reserved garlic-red pepper oil. (Be sure to scrape all the seasoned oil out of the bowl. Stir briefly. Add all of the goat cheese and most of the Parmigiano and stir until everything is well distributed. Add another 1 to 2 tablespoons pasta water and stir again until the goat cheese loosens up a bit and gets creamier. Add another 1 to 2 tablespoons pasta water, if necessary.

6. Serve right away, garnished with the remaining Parmigiano.

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