December 5, 2012
Frascatelli and Eating the Whole Broccoli
Pasta with broccoli is definitely a regular weeknight meal in our house. It's got all the hallmarks of a perfect weeknight dinner - quick, easy, cheap, nutritious. From idea to fork in under 20 minutes - not too shabby. And so I have never dreamed of attempting to replicate this same easy, quick meal with homemade pasta - because then it would no longer be easy or quick, thus defeating its main function as a go-to weeknight meal. That all changed yesterday.
So, I confess, it didn't take me under 20 minutes, but it still came in well shy of the 30 minute mark - not too bad for homemade pasta. Pillowy and toothsome, these dumplings have a texture similar to gnocchi, but they aren't gnocchi - they are simply semolina flour and water, or frascatelli.
I love the literal correspondence between a pasta's shape and its name in Italian. Farfalle - butterflies. Orecchiette - little ears. Bucatini - little holes. Well, it seems that in the case of frascatelli, the name could be derived more from the process than the shape. Frasca means branch, and I read somewhere that back in the day, folks could have been using a tree branch to shake out this pasta, rather than the slotted spoon or spatula we would use. You can go for the tree branch technique - but I don't recommend it.
I've never shared my pasta with broccoli recipe with you because it just seemed too simple - I didn't think anyone would be interested. However, now that I've upped the ante with the addition of frascatelli - this once humble (and kind of boring) weeknight meal is now an exciting foray into the world of homemade pasta-making. And thus, I bring it to you.
Please note - I used the whole broccoli for this recipe and almost always do - leaves and stalks and all. I don't know how on earth the rumor started that the only edible part of broccoli is the tippy-top, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Think about how much of the broccoli gets wasted that way. Depending on the broccoli's maturity, the leaves either have a tender broccoli-ish taste or smack a bit of collard greens, as is the case with older, larger leaves. Both tasty. And the hard stalks need only be peeled to reveal a tender inside, and then diced and included in whatever broccoli dish you're cooking up. By cooking the stalks and leaves you've instantly doubled the volume of broccoli you have - ok, maybe not doubled, but you catch my drift.
What you'll need
1 1/2 - 2 cups semolina flour
1 large head of broccoli or 4-5 mini ones, stalks trimmed and cut into individual florets
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more
1/3 cup veggie stock or dry white wine or water
1 tsp red chili flakes, maybe more
Salt and black pepper
For the pasta - get a large pot of well salted water on high heat.
As you wait for the water to boil, make your frascatelli.
Dump the semolina into a baking dish, shaking to create one even layer. Have one cup of water ready and waiting at the side of the dish.
Dip all five of your fingertips into the water and, lifting water with them, spray the water over the top of the semolina flour. Do this repeatedly until most of the surface is covered in splotches of water. Wait 30 seconds for the water to absorb into the flour. Then, using a slotted spoon, spatula or, really, even your fingers, gently turn the flour onto itself, forming dumplings.
Put the dumplings into a colander or sieve and shake out the excess semolina over the baking dish. Gently transfer the finished dumplings onto a baking sheet.
Return to the baking dish and repeat the same process until you have used all of the semolina and/or water. You may have a little water left at the end, which is fine. The bits of semolina that remain in the bottom of the baking dish can be pressed together to form dumplings.
In a 12' sauté pan, gently heat the olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flakes over low heat. Once the garlic is fragrant add the trimmed broccoli.
Season generously with salt and black pepper and whichever liquid you are using - wine or veggie stock or water - to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, stir the broccoli and place a lid on the pan - steaming the broccoli for a few minutes.
Remove the lid and turn the heat off.
Once the water boils, cook the frascatelli. Use a wooden spoon to make a vortex or whirlpool in the water - this helps to prevent the frascatelli from sticking to each other and the bottom of the pot. Cook the frascatelli for no more than 1 minute.
Drain the water and add the frascatelli directly to the broccoli. Stir well.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
To serve: top with freshly grated Pecorino cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.