September 4, 2017 —
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400g Sardinian gnocchi by DeCecco, or orecchiette or any other small shape pasta
3 large heads of broccoli
150g smoked pancetta or bacon
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
250ml chicken stock (or water)
200ml white wine (or milk)
1 litre full fat milk
175g grated Parmesan cheese
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This is an Italian way with broccoli which cooks the florets in milk or cream until they break up into a creamy vegetable sauce. Carluccio, in An Invitation to Italian Cooking pairs the sauce with Sardinian gnocchi and I haven’t found another sauce for these shapes that is as well matched. However, do not let the shapes detract from making this sauce, it will work with just about any pasta shape, especially orecchiette. The sauce appears on spaghetti in the Silver Spoon cook book and conchiglie in the blue River Cafe Cook Book. Marcella Hazan, in Classic Italian Cooking, creates a similar smooth sauce from the florets of broccoli (but omits the cream and adds anchovies). Her sauce is paired with penne. I have adapted the Carluccio method here. There is a odd chemistry at play with milk – rather like the Italian way of cooking pork shoulder in milk – it seems counter-intuitive, and initially the milk does curdle and gives an impression of a disaster in the making. But persevere, just as in the pork recipe, the milk will come together and make an unctuous conduit for the broccoli. Some recipes say to blend the broccoli, but I feel the interest of the sauce is in the individual buds of the florets becoming supspended in the sauce. We serve it with salad, roast chicken and crusty bread, but this is an indulgence, for many years in our family it was served just as it is for dinner.
NB: I tend to reach for wine and stock to add extra flavour to my sauces – however, both can be omitted. Cook the broccoli initially in water instead of stock (step 2 below). Where I mention wine, just use more milk (step 3). Also note that the broccoli is cooked twice, initially in stock (or water) and then in milk (step 4).
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