Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memories/ Pasta with Brocolli, Mushrooms and Pesto

I'm not sure if it's the Memorial Day weekend or what, but my thoughts lately have been on many of the friends and acquaintances in my past. On Mother's day, we visited the grave where my Grandmother, Mom and Dad are laid to rest. How I miss those days when life seemed so simple. I'm old enough that I can look back on my childhood, my early adulthood, my "middle" adult hood and nowadays and see them as distinct periods. There was a "kid" I worked with at the restaurant in Brooklyn that joked about me way back then. " Che is so old,' she said," he played GI Joe with Jesus!"Now that kid is in her 40's and has 3 of her own and I am beginning to feel the weight of the years every morning when I wake up and need to walk around a little so I won't feel quite so stiff.

Anyhow, the friends and relationships from the past have been on my mind a lot lately and while I miss many of those I no longer see much of, I am profoundly grateful that they played a part in my life. Back in 1975, when our restaurant was just getting off the ground, one of the owners was using the kitchen to make food for herself and a few other workers. She put together a simple dish of pasta and broccoli cooked in chicken stock and garlic. The story goes that a customers saw it and asked if she could make some for their table and it became the first entree on the little menu that at the time only consisted of sandwiches made in pita bread. I thought of that the other day when I was considering what to do with the mushrooms and broccoli I had bought earlier in the week.This is my version cooked in pesto. We called it "Pasta con Broccoli". I call it a good memory. Thanks, Andrea.

The pesto came about because I had fresh basil and mint from the salads I've been making with our meals.The Current Wife loves pesto, but painstakingly removes all traces of fresh herbs found in her salad. Go figure. When I prep my broccoli, I remove the stalks, peel and slice them, then cook them in boiling water for 2 and 1/2  minutes prior to cooking the florets.

I remove the broccoli with a metal "spider" after an additional 2  and 1/2 minutes. I use the same water to start my pasta. At the same time, I heat about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.

Since I'm flavoring my pasta with pesto, I use a few pine nuts in the dish. Here, I'm frying them briefly with some red pepper flakes to begin.

Next, come the mushrooms and after they cook, the garlic which goes in last so not to burn while the mushrooms cook (but you all know that!)

Lastly, the pasta and broccoli get added to the pan to cook for a minute. Reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water to add to the pesto. Mix it in and serve. 

I hope all of you had an enjoyable Memorial Day and found time to remember our fallen heroes, those who died in combat, or in service to our city , and the innocent victims of Oklahoma City, Washington DC , Pennsylvania and New York.


  1. Thanks for sharing that story Joe. I have a very similar recipe but it does not have mushrooms or the pesto. I think those additions would be wonderful though and the next time I make this dish I will add them!

  2. I'm so glad you shared your memories with us, Joe. Your pasta sounds wonder and it is seasoned and enhanced by time :-). I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary