Cacio e Pepe ala Broccoli

Last Saturday my beautiful baby girl, her husband, his wonderful parents along with yours truly took a trip to Eataly in New York City.  Eataly is the brain child of Mario Batali, Lida Bastianich and Joe Bastianich.  It is an Italian’s delight with various market- place type stalls offering top quality products imported and produced on the premises.  Patrons can meander through the marketplace sipping on fine Italian wines inspecting the many offerings found in each stall or while waiting for their reservations at the restaurants on site.  We devoured a delicious lunch of appetizers, pizza and pasta.  My choice was the Cacio e Pepe; a Roman dish of pasta, Pecorino Romano and black pepper.  I found it amazing with the creamy cheese sauce, lots of black pepper and al dente fresh pasta. It took me back ten years to Rome and the Jewish Ghetto where I first had this delicious dish a few days before my daughter’s wedding!  So of course the next day while preparing my Sunday meal an idea emerged. My mother-in-law would prepare pasta every Sunday;  an Italian law!  One of her signature dishes was broccoli and pasta, olio crudo which is olive oil drizzled generously over the finished dish of pasta and broccoli along with a generous amount of grated Pecorino cheese.  So why not incorporate her recipe with the traditional Cacio e Pepe?   I found a simple recipe on Splendid Table originating from Leonardo Vignoli’s sauce adapted for the home kitchen. The combination of cheese sauce, broccoli and pasta was Magnifico!

1/2 pound of the pasta of your choice  (spaghetti is usually used for Cacio e Pepe)

1 head of fresh broccoli cleaned and broken into florets (I happened to have broccolini)

1 cup of finely grated Pecorino Romano

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

a pinch of red pepper flakes  (optional)

1 cup hot pasta water  (remove just before the pasta finishes)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add both pasta and broccoli cooking according to pasta directions for al dente.

In a large bowl combine 3/4 cup of cheese with the pepper.  When the pasta/broccoli is almost done add about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the cheese mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it makes a paste.  Strain pasta and broccoli then add to the cheese paste.   Toss sauce with pasta adding a little hot water at a time to make a creamy sauce that coats the pasta and broccoli.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top the pasta and then finish with the remaining cheese and a pinch of black pepper!  Buono Apppetito

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