I’ve been working up the courage to tell you about this dish for a few years. Why courage, you might ask? What’s courageous about the timeless combination of broccoli and pasta, Deb? It’s the cooking time. This broccoli is not al dente. It does not “retain a crunch,” “still have some bite to it,” or keep any of the verdant green hue it entered the pan with. And, even more audacious, it doesn’t wish to. This broccoli applies a philosophy of vegetable cooking times fairly polarized from our current moment, when the minutes we walk vegetables by the fire have plunged so far that some of us even advocate for eating cauliflower, asparagus, and even broccoli raw. [Or, in a twist on the words of a steak cooking chart I once saw on the wall of a restaurant in Texas: A good farmer could still save the vegetable.]
But there is a time and place for all vegetable cookery, and this is the one that really made me fall in love with what happens when broccoli is cooked until it begins to melt. What is key is that this is not the bland, soggy, boiled to death broccoli nightmare of someone’s childhood cafeteria or dinner at grandma’s house. [Justice for grandmothers, always, however, for feeding us ingrates anyway.] This is more silky, closer to braised, and has an elusive vegetable sweetness, a nod of vegetable confit, that only comes with the luxury of the unrushed.