You see a lot of what goes on in my kitchen–the cookies, the soups, the roasts–but there’s a fair amount you miss. Mostly you luck out: I save the ever-growing stack of dirty dishes for myself, you don’t have to burn your nostrils every time you open the fridge because of the cornichon brine that spilled all over and hasn’t quite gotten cleaned up yet, and you’re spared from having to deal with the enormous black dog that is constantly plotting his next attack on whatever edibles are on the counter (most recently, it was a ball of pizza dough…grr…).
But, sadly, you also miss some of my best meals. I’m talking about the meals that are thrown together in a hurry when I just need to eat and can’t dream of slowing things down to take pictures and notes and think of how much I’m adding of this and that. There are an awful lot of quick pasta dinners in my real life and not so very many present in my blog life.
Renditions of spaghetti aglio e olio make their way to my table a couple of times a week. Here’s a version that I thought was good enough to slow down and share with you. It’s my basic olive oil and garlic spaghetti, but with a few extra touches. I add a ton of broccoli that’s been roasted ’til it’s brown, crispy, and awfully irresistible. I melt a few anchovy fillets into the oil because anchovies and broccoli are a match made in heaven. I love the salty, subtly fishy taste of the anchovies with the almost sweet roasted broccoli. And to finish, the pasta is sprinkled with what I consider the best thing to happen to pasta since parmigiano-reggiano: fried bread crumbs.
Sound good? Great, let’s make this happen!
Get your oven heating and put a pot of water on to boil while you break down the broccoli. I snap the crowns into bite-sized florets, peel and chop the stalk. Toss the broccoli with a little oil and pop it in the oven to roast until it’s brown and crispy and awfully irresistible.
While the broccoli is doing its thing, get the other pieces under way. Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry a handful of breadcrumbs until they’re golden and toasty. Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and chop a few anchovies.
Now drop the pasta in to cook while you make a super quick sauce. Sauté the anchovies, garlic, and a few pinches of red pepper until the anchovies melt and you can smell the garlic. Add a little of the pasta water to loosen it up and make a “sauce”. Add the broccoli in the pan, toss to coat, then add the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti when it is still fairly toothsome so it can mingle with the broccoli and anchovies for a minute and absorb their flavors without overcooking.
Finish with a squeeze of lemon. Swirl the spaghetti into warm bowls and sprinkle the fried breadcrumbs over the top. Get your fork poised and on your mark, get set, go! Go, get in there and twirl that spaghetti! It’s one of the simplest dinners you’ll ever make and maybe one of the best.
- 3 small heads Broccoli
- ¼ c. Breadcrumbs (*see notes)
- ½ # Whole Wheat Spaghetti
- 6 Anchovy Fillets, chopped
- 2 plump cloves Garlic, minced
- ⅛-¼ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- About 1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
- Preheat oven to 450° and get a large pot of water on to boil.
- Break the broccoli into small florets. You can peel and chop the stalk, as well. Toss the broccoli with about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, season with salt, and spread the pieces evenly on a baking sheet. Roast until the broccoli is brown and crispy in spots, 15-20 minutes. You’ll want to give it a stir halfway through.
- When the broccoli is about 5 minutes from being ready, you can start working on the other components. Salt the boiling water and drop the pasta in to cook.
- Heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the breadcrumbs and fry until they’re golden and toasty, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a small plate or bowl and wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Add a Tbsp. of oil to the pan and return to medium-high heat. Add the anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes and sauté until the garlic is golden and fragrant and the anchovies have more or less melted into the oil, 1-2 minutes. Add about ¼ c. of the pasta water to the pan to loosen up the mixture. The broccoli should be ready by now. Add it to the pan, toss to coat.
- Check the pasta. Mine took about 8 minutes to be “al dente” (despite the label claiming it would take 11!). Grab the strands of pasta with a pair of tongs and transfer them directly to the broccoli mixture. Toss together and allow the pasta to cook for another minute, to absorb the flavor of the sauce. Taste. Season with salt, if needed, and about 1 Tbsp. lemon juice.
- Divide the spaghetti between warm bowls and top with the crispy breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.
More pasta dinners that can be ready in a flash: