Rotini with Broccoli and Chillies

Bowl of rotini pasta with broccoli, chillies, and parmesan.

I couldn’t tell you why exactly, but I always seem to have a head of broccoli lying around in my fridge. Strong ties to my mom, I suppose, as she always has a head of cabbage in hers. What else do I always have? Dried chillies, garlic, dried pasta, and a big hunk of grating cheese in my crisper. Happily, these are the foundations for making one of my favourite one-pot meals; the only other ingredient needed is vegetable stock (or chicken) and it need only be bouillon cubes or concentrate. I use rotini because it’s got some chewy heft, but really any kind of pasta will work well (including whole wheat or other grain alternative). You can play with the ratio of pasta to broccoli, I personally like having more broccoli than pasta or at least a fairly close approximation. The broccoli is cooked right in with the pasta and then the garlic is quickly sautéed in olive oil while the pasta and broccoli drains in a colander. Make sure that you reserve about a cup of the pasta stock to ensure your finished meal isn’t too dry, this is good practice in general but this recipe definitely suffers without it. If you want to add protein I would highly suggest a can of good quality oil packed tuna, just break it up into larger pieces when combining everything before eating.

rotini with broccoli and chillies:

1 cup of uncooked rotini

2 cups of broccoli, cut into small florets

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 generous Tbsp. olive oil

Lots of freshly cracked pepper

Kosher salt

Vegetable stock

Dried red chillies

Parmigiano-Reggiano OR Grana Padano OR Pecorino Pepato

  1. Fill a large pot with stock and cook the rotini according to package directions. In the last 3 minutes of cooking time add the broccoli. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid and drain the pasta and broccoli.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and in the same pot sauté the minced garlic until it’s just beginning to brown and smell super fragrant.
  3. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli, reserved cooking stock, black pepper and kosher salt to taste. Toss to combine and then serve with a generous sprinkling of dried red chillies, extra black pepper, and a heaping amount of Reggiano.

Nothing says me time like a little Tori Amos, soundtrack to the antics of teenager Ashley, twenties Ashley, and now thirties Ashley. Mostly her earlier albums, but what can I say? These are the ones that are perfect to me.

Tori Amos – Winter


Bow Ties with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

a blue shallow bowl full of bow tie pasta and roasted red pepper sauce and parmesan

It’s been a few weeks now since my obsession with jarred roasted red peppers began. I’ve been finding ways to include them in everything, from soup to salsa to this pasta sauce. I like to add freshly roasted sweet peppers to the jarred variety to punch up the pepper flavour, but there’s something so piquantly pleasant about the bright red strips and the brine they’ve been embalmed in . Oddly enough, I like to eat food that’s even spicier than my normal year round preference in the summertime so I’m always sure to add lots of my beloved dried chilies to the final product. Parmigiano-Reggiano is without a doubt the best choice for this pasta, the older the better. If you must substitute with another cheese I would opt for something entirely opposite of Reggiano such as fresh chèvre or Macedonian feta, crumbled.

bow ties with roasted red pepper sauce:

Enough bow tie pasta for 2 or 3 people

2 sweet peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips

1 Tbsp. olive oil + more for drizzling

1 small onion, diced

1 jar of roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips + 1/3 cup of liquid from the jar

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 Tbsp. freshly chopped oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tbsp. fresh basil, cut in a very fine chiffonnade

Kosher or sea salt, to taste

Generous pile of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Dried red chilies

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the sweet pepper strips in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the peppers for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently towards the end. You want the peppers to be softened and just beginning to darken in spots.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the onion, jarred roasted peppers, the freshly roasted sweet peppers, and plum tomatoes. Add salt to taste and allow to cook for 10 minutes or so, or until the contents have become soft.

3. Add the vegetable stock and liquid from the jarred peppers and continue to cook down until the liquids have begun to thicken. Using a hand blender, carefully blitz the sauce in a few short bursts – you want the sauce to still have a somewhat coarse texture (if you don’t have a hand blender put a few ladlefuls of the sauce in a regular blender or food processor and mix back in afterwards).

4. Turn the heat down to low and prepare the bow tie pasta according to package directions. Top with a generous amount of roasted red pepper sauce, grated cheese, and, my favourite, dried chilies.

Aw! Love! When we moved last month Ian found all of our mix CDs from a decade ago; these CDs are so important because at the time I lived in London, Ontario and he lived in Olympia, Washington. Receiving one of these in the mail, all the tracks hand-written and oftentimes with a sweet love note tucked into the case as a surprise when you opened it for the first time, was so much bigger than a letter in some ways because it felt like you could experience the other person’s reality just a little bit easier and more tangibly.

Stars – Elevator Love Letter