Having a packet or two of fancy, dried pasta in the pantry is a lovely way to make an old favourite sauce more interesting. If I’m in an Italian deli or a good market and come across some interesting dried pasta shapes, I’ll pick a couple I haven’t tried before and store them away, ready to make a Tuesday quickie dinner less boring.
This week I found a packet of maccheroni al ferro, a hand-rolled, tube-like pasta that does a great job of gripping onto sauce with it’s rolled edge. Pesto would go well with it, but my basil plant did not survive a late frost last week, making the promise of fragrant, summery pasta a little farther away. Instead I paired the maccheroni with a more seasonally appropriate mix of broccoli and bacon.
This recipe calls for a seemingly unlikely pairing of broccoli and milk. Do not let this combination put you off. When cooked down together they form a creamy, pesto-like texture, the grainy broccoli florets melting into the sauce that also features hits of salty pork. Parmesan and pasta water help smooth it all out, forming a creamy green sauce that coats the pasta beautifully.
Cooking broccoli in a big pot of boiling water that you’ll reuse to cook the pasta saves energy and time. It also means you can turn that broccoli into sauce with the milk and bacon while the pasta is cooking, resulting in a perfectly timed union of drained pasta and creamy sauce. A sprinkle of chilli and a grating of parmesan will finish off the dish, making a delightful mid-week, slightly fancy pasta meal.
Pasta with Broccoli and Bacon Sauce
- 500g (1 lb 2 oz) broccoli, florets removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 60g (2 1/2 oz) bacon, finely chopped
- 200ml (7 fl oz) milk
- 500g (1 lb 2 oz) pasta (any pasta that holds onto sauce, like orecchiette or ridged rigatoni)
- 60g (2 1/4 oz / 1/2 cup) finely grated parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
- A few pinches of chilli flakes (optional)
Wash the broccoli and cut into florets. Boil in a large saucepan of salted water for 12-15 minutes until soft. Remove the broccoli when done and reserve the water to cook the pasta in.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the bacon for 3-4 minutes, then add the broccoli. Stir a little then add the milk. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, breaking up the broccoli with the back of the spoon as you go. The sauce will end up a milky green colour and quite thick.
Cook the pasta in the saucepan and water you used for the broccoli. Before draining, reserve some pasta water, then drain and return the pasta to the pot. Add the broccoli sauce and parmesan, stirring to combine and season with salt and pepper. Spoon in enough pasta water to loosen the sauce to help it cover the pasta evenly and create a creamy texture.
Serve with extra parmesan grated over the top. Add chilli flakes if you’d like some extra punch.
Recipe from the beautiful Rosa’s Farm by Rosa Mitchell, a cookbook I got for my birthday and haven’t stopped cooking from since.