Like our recent recipe for Rich No-Cream Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce, this pasta sauce is velvety-rich and creamy, plus nubby with flecks of feta cheese. And yet it has very little fat and dairy, aside from the feta, and nearly all of its body comes from steamed and blended broccoli. And lest you think that this is a dieter's compromise of a pasta sauce, we'll tell you the broccoli is sautéed with onion, garlic, and Italian parsley, and spun with lemon juice for a fantastically tangy and aromatic pasta dish. We love it!
This is yet one more recipe inspired by Laurie Colwin. She mentions a pasta sauce made up from steamed broccoli in one of her essays in Home Cooking. We played around with the proportions and added a few things, including the feta. It was right around this same time last year that we rediscovered just how good broccoli and feta are together - remember our Broccoli and Feta Pasta Salad?
This is also a quick and cheap meal - just a little broccoli, some herbs, pasta, and pantry staples. Try this on a spring evening for a quick one-dish supper. The bright green is fresh and unexpected, and we found the leftovers to be delicious as well.
Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta
1 pound broccoli
2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
1/2 small onion or two shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped flat parsley
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup feta cheese (low-fat if you want to be good) - divided
1/4 cup water
Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam on the stove or in the microwave with the 2 tablespoons of water. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Cook the onion and garlic until it just begins to soften then add the broccoli. Cook for several minutes or until the onion turns translucent. Add the parsley and cook until it's well wilted. Pour in the lemon juice and simmer for about two minutes.
Transfer to a blender and add 1/4 cup of the feta cheese and the 1/4 cup water. Puree until smooth, adding a drizzle of olive oil and a little more water if it sticks and turns to a lump. Puree until as smooth or chunky as you prefer.
Taste and add any necessary additional salt and pepper. Serve with a good ridged pasta like the rotini above.
(Images: Faith Durand)