Monday, May 21, 2012

Spaghetti and Broccoli

Bowl of Spaghetti and Broccoli
Healthful Pasta

Recipe from “The Cooking Decade”

“Weird!” said my husband both times I’ve mentioned making this recipe. I could tell from the tone of his voice that he didn’t mean “different and interesting,” he meant “sounds terrible,” mainly because he’s not fond of yogurt. But I’ve been intrigued by this no-red-sauce spaghetti for awhile. My husband isn’t home today, but a huge bunch of CSA broccoli is, so the time was right to try it.

Broccoli, Wine, Yogurt, Parmesan, Basil, Onion, Garlic
Vegetarian Ingredients
This recipe is from “The Cooking Decade,” a collection of time-tested family recipes that my sister Chris put together for me a few years back, neatly organized in sections in a hand-decorated binder. You didn’t hear it from me, but she was quite the family chef back when she was raising her kids. Now in her second “Non-Cooking Decade,” she typically disavows all knowledge of kitchen-related activities. I feel lucky to have inherited her collection of goodies.

Spaghetti with Broccoli sounds like something a college student would make up, and I suspect my health-conscious vegetarian niece, who often cooked with my sister when she was a teen. Because I had them on hand, I substituted leeks for onions, which I’m sure my sophisticated niece would appreciate. You can use either, or a combination. Also, I added a bit of olive oil to sauté the onions before adding the wine (no doubt my cosmopolitan niece learned to cook with wine before I did). I love my niece’s idea of using the same water to prepare the broccoli and pasta, as my first cooking goal this year is to conserve more water.

Two Forks Tossing Spaghetti, Broccoli, and Parmesan
The Final Toss
A key to success in this recipe getting the pasta and the topping completed at roughly the same time, so they are both hot when combined with the Parmesan. It’s easier if two people can work on the final stages, one person draining and dressing the pasta, and the other heating and stirring the onions and broccoli together. It’s best to have the Parmesan grated before this stage, so that it can be mixed in quickly.

This recipe is timed for cooking spaghetti 7 minutes in 2½ quarts of water, on a stove that takes 5 minutes to heat the water. You might need to start the water boiling sooner if your pasta needs more water or longer cooking time.

It’s important that the pasta not be too dry before topping with broccoli, since topping will not add much moisture. Dryness/wetness will vary depending on the kind of pasta used. When dressing the pasta with the yogurt, if it seems dry, add extra yogurt, olive oil, butter, or water, as detailed in recipe. You could also opt to use more water when sautéing the onion.

Since there are so few ingredients, use a good aged Parmesan cheese and a decent white wine for best results.

Tupperware with Leftover Spaghetti and Half-empty Wne Bottle
Spaghetti and Broccoli
serves about 4

1  tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion or large leek
~4 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh basil
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup veggie broth
1 lb. broccoli
8 oz. spaghetti
2 tbsp. thin yogurt
Extra yogurt or 1 tbsp. olive oil (optional)
3 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Extra chopped basil (optional)
Extra grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Check the spaghetti instructions to see how long it needs to cook, and in how much water, so you can time it to be ready about the same time as the topping.

Cut stems off broccoli and cut heads into bite size florets. Peel and slice stems into 1-inch matchsticks, or any thin bite-size shape.

Coarsely dice onion. You will have about 1 cup. If using leeks, slice lengthwise and wash thoroughly. Slice into half-round moons about ¼ inch thick. Again, shoot for about 1 cup.

Mince the garlic. You will need about 2 tsp.

Grate the Parmesan cheese. Remove stems from basil and snip into small pieces with kitchen shears.

Heat water to steam broccoli in a deep pot. Steam for 5 minutes. Rinse broccoli and remove from steamer to a plate to cool so it doesn’t overcook.

Add more water to the “broccoli water,” to make 2 ½ quarts total. Heat to boiling for cooking pasta.

While water is heating, sauté onion or leek in olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat for about 3 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Add garlic and sauté another minute, or until fragrant. Add wine and broth (or water with a little salt) and lower heat to medium. Cook until onion is tender and most of wine has evaporated, about 3 - 4 more minutes.

Meanwhile, when water boils, cook spaghetti according to directions.

Turn off heat under onions until spaghetti is almost ready. At this point it’s best to have a helper warm the broccoli while you dress the pasta.  

Drain and rinse spaghetti. Toss in a bowl with yogurt; spaghetti should not seem dry. If it does, add another tbsp. or two of yogurt, or 1 tbsp. or so of olive oil, or water or butter if you prefer. Keep warm.

Add steamed broccoli to skillet with onions, stir and heat till hot and well-combined.

Toss broccoli and Parmesan cheese with spaghetti. Serve immediately.

Garnish with extra basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired.


  1. This sounds excellent! I've been into leeks lately. Thanks for the tips on pasta dryness and using a good parmesan and white wine. Did your husband get to try a forkful?

  2. He has shown no interest whatsoever, Kelly. Leftovers going very fast anyway! I read another pasta recipe that suggested saving some of the pasta water when draining, for use as needed to moisten the pasta. Next time I'll try that.

  3. Kelly, I did save some for him and he liked it. Guess I'll have to share it next time!