Broccolini (baby broccoli) is similar to broccoli but with smaller and not as compact florets; the stem is totally edible, leaving no waste. The delicate florets and slender stems have a hint of sweetness and can be cooked just like broccoli or eaten raw. In this recipe, the broccolini is flavored with pancetta and tomatoes, providing a nice flavor contrast with the spaghetti.
1/4 cup Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 pound pancetta (Italian bacon), diced
1 pound broccolini, washed and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
Grinding black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup reserved pasta-cooking water
Grated Pecorino cheese for sprinkling over pasta
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet, add the pancetta, and cook, stirring, over medium heat, until the pancetta begins to render its fat. Stir in the broccolini and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic softens. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. The broccolini should remain al dente, or have a bit of crunch to it. Set the broccolini aside and keep it warm while the spaghetti is cooking.
In a pasta pot with insert, bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of salt and the spaghetti. Stir the spaghetti once or twice. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then remove the cover and cook until the spaghetti is al dente.
Drain the spaghetti into a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Return the spaghetti to the pasta pot. Stir in the broccolini, the reserved water, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well over medium-low heat. Transfer the mixture to a platter, sprinkle the top with Pecorino cheese, and serve immediately.
Note: Did you know that it is best to grate hard cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino when they are at room temperature?
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