Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dena's Pasta a la Grecque

I lived in Williamstown, Massachusetts for five years, several years ago. During this time, there were few restaurants in this quaint little New England town, and I visited nearly every single one in existence there at the time.

One of Williamstown's restaurants, Michael's, is one of those funny (and, I find, distinctly unique to the East Coast) hybrids of Italian and Greek cuisines. My favorite dish there was what the menu called "Pasta a la Grecque." Where it got this fancy-schmantzy name, I do not know.

Determined to make it at home, I studied the simple ingredients and came up with my own version. I've been making it ever since. It is still yummy.

(A note: when I first started making this dish, I was still eating regular pasta at home. I have since changed my ways and eat only whole grain pasta at home. The choice of pasta you use is, of course, up to you.)

Dena's Pasta a la Grecque

Serves 4

1 lb. pasta of your choice (I use Trader Joe's organic whole wheat)
1 1/4 lbs. broccoli, both heads and stalks chopped - slice the stalks pretty thin
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
Olive oil
Feta cheese (I use light feta, which actually works perfectly fine)

Set pasta water to boil, making sure to salt it. Cook pasta to al dente and drain, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Set a large skillet on medium heat and add pine nuts. Stir every minute and a half or so, letting them brown and grow fragrant. When they are as brown and toasty as you would like -- for me, this is after about 4-5 minutes -- set the pine nuts aside.

Meanwhile, chop broccoli, garlic, and onion. When pine nuts are done and out of skillet, turn up heat to medium-high and add 2 tbsp olive oil; when it is shimmery, add garlic and onion. When they are fragrant and the garlic is nearly toasted and the onion is translucent, set them aside (with pine nuts is fine). Add 1 tbsp olive oil to skillet and add broccoli. Toss with olive oil to coat; add 1 tbsp water and cover to let it cook through and steam a little, for about 5 minutes.

When broccoli is cooked through, add pine nuts, onion, and garlic back into skillet, along with drained pasta and reserved pasta water. Toss it all together with another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil if you wish, add salt and pepper, and serve with plenty of feta cheese on top.

And yes, this was last night's dinner, according to plan.

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