I've made this dish as a quick supper and as an elegant dinner party first course. It goes both ways, which is key to its charm and longevity in my cooking repertoire. The sauce is created when the starch from the pasta mixes with the chicken stock. One bunch of broccoli rabe can be substituted for the broccolini, but be sure you peel the tough stems. In the summer I garnish this dish with minced cilantro, parsley, or basil, garlic, and fresh tomatoes. This recipe is my winter version. (The sautéed broccolini is delicious as a side vegetable, or tossed with roast chicken pieces. I also combine cooked broccolini with grilled sausages and cooked white beans.)
2 bunches broccolini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and hot pepper flakes
3/4 pound spaghettini
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup ricotta cheese or ricotta salata
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop in the broccolini. As soon as the water comes back to a boil, drain the broccolini.
In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute to soften. Do not brown. Add the pepper flakes to taste and the broccolini. Cook over medium-low heat until the broccolini is tender, about 15 minutes. You may need to add a bit more oil. Adding a little water is okay, too, if the pan seems dry. Snip the broccolini into little pieces. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta according to the technique for cooking pasta in stock (below). Pour the pasta into a serving plate and garnish with the broccolini and the crumbled ricotta.
Preparing Pasta in Stocks
Cooking pasta in stock is a fabulous way to get another meal out of a pot of bones and stems and peels. The pasta absorbs the flavors from the stock and leaches out starch, which thickens the stock to create a savory sauce. You can make the pasta saucy or soupy with more stock, or tight and dry with less stock. Both versions are delicious and versatile. It is best to use thin spaghetti (spaghettini) or thin linguine (linguine fini). They will absorb the stock more efficiently. Thicker pasta will work, but you will need more stock and the taste will be wheaty. Very thin pasta like fedelini is good, but it absorbs fast, and tends to get knotted and overcooked. If I use stock to cook fedelini, I prefer to serve it as a soup. You will need about 1 pint of stock for every 1/4 pound of thin pasta. Bring the stock to a boil in your pasta pot over medium-high heat. Season the stock to taste. Add the pasta. It will be stiff and stick out of the stock. Be patient. Gently push down the pasta, and after about 5 minutes it will soften and collapse into the stock. Stir often, as the pasta tends to stick together. Cook the pasta in the stock until it is al dente. You will notice the starch from the pasta thickens the stock to create a sauce. Add a little more stock or water if the pasta gets sticky. Do not overcook the pasta. It is best to serve this pasta loose. Toss in the various flavorings and garnishes as specified in individual recipes.
From The Kitchen Ecosystem by Eugenia Bone, Clarkson Potter 2014.
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