Cheesy pasta with broccoli and cheese, served with bruschetta

We eat a lot of pasta in this house…We moved to England, but we eat like we live in Italy. This was a dish I threw together on a weeknight because I was tired and wanted to do something that was nourishing but quick. I also had some rolls I wanted to use up – keeping bread is nearly impossible here in this damp country, it always goes moldy before I can do anything.

I like eating broccoli – it’s one of my favorite vegetable. At the market, I can buy a whole head of broccoli, but I feel it’s a bit of a waste because I eat the crowns, but a good 2/3 of the broccoli is that tough, thick woody stem. I know you can eat the stem if you peel it, slice it thinly, etc. When I’m doing Asian food, I’ll use the stems, but I don’t think it works with Italian cooking.

So I found some tender broccolini – its stems are super tender and cook really well, so I like using it, though I don’t buy it all the time because it’s more expensive than regular broccoli.

This recipe is easy to make and quick – and you don’t have to follow the recipe too closely – do what you’d like. This is a one-pot dish, which is nice because you don’t have too many pots and pans to clean up.

Ingredients (for the pasta dish):
-250 g of short pasta – penne, fusilli, rontini, I’m partial to a rotelle, though I’ve yet to find it up in here in England
– 1/2 ball of mozzarella, diced
-1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan
-1/4 cup of shredded Grana Padano
– 2 cups of water
– 1 cup of cream
– 3 links of small, low-fat chicken sausage
– 4 stalks of broccolini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
– 1/2 small white onion, minced
-1 tbl of olive oil
– salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the bruschetta) – now, mind you, this is a bit of a Sandra Lee-esque recipe because I’m using jarred sauce that I wanted to use up:
– 2 rolls, cut in half, width-wise, and then each half, halved again
– 1 tin of anchovy, mashed up
– 1/4 ball of mozzarella, chopped into tiny bits
– 1 clove of garlic, chopped
-1/4 cup of tomato sauce

So to make this dish, you’ll have to figure out what you want to do first, the bruschetta or the pasta…You have to keep an eye on the bruschetta or it’ll burn, so it’s up to you….This is what I did.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, with a tight-fitting lid. add the onion and cook, adding some salt to draw moisture and to let the onion brown a bit. Add the garlic and keep stirring and keep cooking for another minute or so. Add the sausage, removed from the casing and broken up. Stir constantly and mix and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the pasta and stir and cook and stir for a bit, toasting the pasta a touch. Add the water, raise the heat to high, getting the water to boil, then stir. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

After about 10 minutes, remove the lid – you should have some liquid – not a lot, but some, and keep stirring. Your pasta should be tender by now. Add the cream and stir and cooking, letting the sauce thicken. Add the cheese and mix, stirring, making sure the cheese melts and creates a thick sauce (this won’t be like mac and cheese, though), add the broccolini and mix and cover the dish and cook for another 8 minutes or so, until the broccolini is tender and cooked – but still bright green. Season to taste.

Whilst I’m doing all this, I’m taking care to make the bruschetta as well. Preheat the broiler and put the rack near the bottom. Brush each piece of bread with some olive oil. Put a bit of garlic on each piece of bread. Then spoon a bit of mushed anchovy on each pieace. Then add about a spoonful of sauce. Carefully place a slice of mozzarella on each piece. Finally, drizzle some olive oil over the bruschetta – I use the oil from the anchovy. Put in the broiler and let it cook until the cheese blisters, browns, and melts – Keep an eye on the bread, though, because it can burn just like that (I just snapped my fingers)

Serve the bruschetta with your pasta (like I did in the pic). Oh, and enjoy.

Bakes fusilli with roasted vegetables and sausage

Baking pasta is something I don’t do very often, but I’ve been making tray bakes a lot lately. Tray bakes are very popular in England and they’re great to make – it’s essentially a one-pot dinner: you throw everything on a baking tray, throw it into a hot oven, and you’re good to go. I’m able to wash dishes while I’m waiting for the food to cook.

This recipe isn’t a “proper” recipe in that it doesn’t really matter what you put it in. I made a winter veg stew the other day, so I had half a turnip and half a celeriac in my fridge that needed eating. I also had half a red onion from a curry I made earlier in the week and I discovered a courgette that was on the borderline of just going off, so I wanted to use that, as well.

This recipe is very easy to make – the ingredients I’m including aren’t obligatory. You put what you want to.

Ingredients (for serving two people):

  • 175 g of pasta – I used whole wheat fusilli
  • 1/2 courgette, chopped in large chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 turnip, diced
  • 1/2 celaraic, diced
  • 3 links of fresh sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

So, the first thing I did was take the turnip and celaraic and tossed it with some olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I poured the root veg onto a baking tray in a single layer and put the tray into an oven, heated at 220 degrees.

While the root veg was baking, I prepared the rest of the vegetables. After 10 minutes, pull the tray out and and add the vegetables and the can of tomatoes, mix and spread on the tray as flat as possible.

I then took the sausage meat and broke it in tiny, bite-size pieces, and place on top of the veg.

Add the tray back into the oven and bake until the meat is cooked, another 15, 20 minutes.

While the tray was cooking, boil water for pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, but shave off about two minutes.

Once the sausage is cooked, carefully pull the tray out and set it on your counter. Add the parmesan and mix – the mixture might get a bit sticky and dray – I added a couple tablespoons of cooking water to loosen it a bit. Flatten the food again.

Once the pasta is done, remove from the heat and drain and add to the tray and mix until it’s all well combined. Place the Emmental cheese slices and bake until the cheese is melted, bubbled, and browned.

Once it’s done, remove from the oven and let it sit for a moment before you cut into it. Serve. Oh and enjoy.