Monday, March 12, 2007

Red Wine Vermicelli with Broccoli

Part of what I enjoyed about this dish is the color--the "wow" factor is pretty high with bright purple pasta. The taste is also great, with an almost tangy interplay with the slightly spicy broccoli, definitely well worth the effort while living up to the neat presentation. The pasta does taste pretty strongly of the wine--it by no means a merely cosmetic ingredient--so contrary to my general philosophy of cooking wines, I would recommend using one that you really like in this dish. It'll have a huge impact.

In deviating from the original Food Network recipe, found here, I used actual broccoli instead of broccoli rabe. Also, the original chef uses a 1/2 cup of Parmesan to finish the dish off, which I left out in an effort to make it healthier. I definitely think the cheese would improve the dish, for those wishing to try it, but it's also delightful without. On a more incidental note, I used vermicelli instead of spaghetti, for no other reason than it's what I had.

2 heads broccoli
1 pound vermicelli
1 bottle red wine (750 ml - preferably Zinfandel)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cut broccoli into 1-inch wide florets. Blanch in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 2 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to a large colander to drain, reserving broccoli-cooking liquid in pot, then transfer broccoli to a bowl.

Return cooking liquid to a boil and cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes (pasta will not be fully cooked). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain pasta in colander and return empty pot to stovetop. Add wine and sugar to pot and boil vigorously 2 minutes until liquid is reduced a bit. Add spaghetti and shake pot to prevent pasta from sticking. Gently stir with tongs until coated and boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes (pasta will be al dente). Immediately after adding spaghetti to wine mixture, cook garlic and red pepper flakes in the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over moderately low heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until garlic is pale golden, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water.

Pour broccoli into skillet with the spaghetti mixture and carefully toss with tongs to combine (skillet will be very full). Cook while stirring, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, season with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. immediately.

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