Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Piccolini with Broccoli Rabe, Asparagus, and Sweet Peas

A few nights ago, I had a fabulous dream.

I was grocery shopping (I know, how mundane, even in my dream life), and I was in the produce section. There, ahead of me, between the beet greens and the parsnips, was one lonely bunch of broccoli rabe (pronounced rahb). "How delicious", thought dream-Billy!

I reached out to grab it, and as my hand met the veg, so did another hand! I turn to my right, and standing there, holding the same bunch of veg as I, is my perfect man. Tall... dark hair... blue eyes... I melt. But not enough to let go of the broccoli rabe.

We laugh uncomfortably. I introduce myself; he replies that his name is Rob.

Naturally, I make an adorable joke about robbing Rob of his rabe. He laughs. I laugh. I invite him home for dinner... and we lived happily ever after. Or at least that's how I'm saying it ended.

Anyhoo... Back to the food.

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a delicious member of the Brassiceae family of veggies, who also bring us broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and turnips. It is grown year-round, which is why I turn to it now, in the early spring, when I am so effing sick of root vegetables that I want to scream at the next potato I see.

Broccoli rabe has a pleasing, nutty-yet-somewhat-bitter taste. The leaves, stems, and florets (like mini-broccoli) are good fer' eatin'.

Now, on to the recipe!

  • 1 1/2 lbs of dried piccolini pasta (if you cant find piccolini, ziti or penne will do)
  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe (~1 lb)
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 heaping Tbs chopped garlic
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Vegetable prep: Chop onion. Cut off woody bottoms of broccoli rabe and asparagus. Chop broccoli rabe into ~1-inch lengths, or roughly bite-sized pieces. If asparagus is thin, chop into 1-inch lengths; if it is thick, chop into 1/2-inch lengths.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Place large, oven-safe saute or paella pan on the stove top. Add butter and oil and heat over medium heat. Once hot, saute onions until just soft, 2-3 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and asparagus and saute. Rabe will wilt and shrink. Add garlic. Saute over medium heat for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rabe leaves are wilted and other veggies are bright green.
  4. In separate pot, bring ~4 qts water to a boil. Add a liberal pinch of salt and pasta. Cook until slightly underdone, approximately 1 minute shy of package directions. Drain.
  5. To saute pan, add peas, wine, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and let reduce for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Stir in cream and half and half. Bring to boil. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan cheese.
  7. Add pasta to saute pan and mix with vegetables until evenly incorporated. Sprinkle Panko and remaining cheese over top of pasta/veggie mixture.
  8. Place in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, until the top is crusty and browned. Serve hot.

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