15 October 2020: Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies
One of the things that quarantining during the pandemic has done for some of us is to make us less careless while shopping for food and more conscious of using every scrap without wasting it. As grocery bills have soared in the last few months, straining budgets that were already being challenged, it's a sharp reminder that all food is precious and ought never to be taken for granted.
Still, with only two of us in the house, unless I've made a large batch of soup, stew, or something like country-style steak (which is usually better the second day anyway), our leftovers tend to be a dab of this and a dribble of that—barely enough for a single serving, let alone two. Finding creative ways to refresh and use them can be a challenge.
Fortunately, saucing just one or two servings of pasta really only needs a dab or a dribble. As long as the pantry has a good stock of flavor-rich ingredients like anchovies, country ham, olives, capers, hot pepper flakes, fresh garlic, and good olive oil, a few dabs and dribbles can be a veritable treasure-trove for the cook's imagination.
With just a basic knowledge of pasta-saucing fundamentals, in minutes, a sad spoonful of leftovers can provide as much if not more pleasure than it did the first time around.
Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies
A small tub of leftover blanched broccoli florets that was too skimpy for two full servings was as it happened just right to sauce a half-empty box of orecchiette at the back of the pantry. A little chopped garlic and anchovies sautéed in good olive oil, some freshly-grated hard cheese, and a lovely lunch was soon on the table.
If you don't happen to have any anchovies, a bit of chopped country ham, pancetta, or even bacon works as well.
4-6 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large or 3 medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and chopped fine
Hot pepper flakes, to taste
2 cups cooked broccoli, stems chopped, florets broken into bite-sized pieces
6 ounces orecchiette pasta
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
1. Put 3-4 quarts of water in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Meanwhile, wipe the anchovies to blot the excess oil and remove most of the fine, hair-like bones. Chop them fine.
2. Film a heavy-bottomed 10-inch skillet with olive oil and put in the garlic. Put the pan over medium-high heat and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the chopped anchovy and sauté until the anchovy is beginning to dissolve and the garlic is colored pale gold.
3. Add the broccoli, toss to coat it with fat, and sprinkle with hot pepper flakes to taste. Sauté, tossing often, until the broccoli is hot through. Turn off the heat.
4. Stir a small handful of salt and the pasta into the boiling water. Adjust the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until al dente, using the package directions as a rough guide. When it's almost ready, gently reheat the sauce over medium-low heat.
5. Lightly drain the pasta, reserving a little of its cooking water, and add it to the pan with the sauce. Remove it from the heat and toss until the pasta is evenly coated. If it seems dry, add a spoonful or so of pasta cooking water. Add half the cheese, toss well, and then add the remaining cheese and toss one last time. Serve immediately, passing more cheese separately.