I was going to call this ‘Broccoli with....’ etc, but my vegbox provider calls it calabrese, so I thought I’d better educate myself. I thought the two terms were pretty much interchangeable, but there is – according to that venerable font of knowledge, Wiki – an important difference.
It transpires that broccoli is more properly the name for the sprouting stuff, whereas calabrese is the more correct term for the densely-headed green variety. So now I know. I blame years of shopping at supermarkets where it’s been labelled it ‘broccoli’. You see, not my fault at all. Really.
What I did already know, however, is that calabrese is one of life’s ‘superfoods’, packed with all things good and nutritious. Which is pretty lucky, since we eat it at least once a week here when it’s in season, and sometimes more.
This is my favourite way of using it – served with pasta, and coated with a piquant blend of anchovies, chilli and pine nuts, with some saffron to give it all an underlying dusky note (as well as an appealing golden hue to the pasta). It’s not a novel recipe by any means – you’ll find numerous variations on the internet and in recipe books – but this is my particular version.
500g calabrese, cut into small bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch of chilli flakes to taste
6 anchovy fillets
approx. 30 strands of saffron
2-3 tbsps olive oil
freshly grated parmesan
450g pasta – I use penne
1. Blanch the calabrese for about 3 minutes. Don’t overcook – it should still retain a healthy green colour. Drain and plunge into ice-cold water, and set aside.
2. Cook your pasta according to instructions.
2. Cover the saffron threads in hot water – about 2 to 3 tbsps.
3. Cook the garlic and chilli in olive oil for a few minutes over a low heat. Don’t let the garlic brown.
4. Add the anchovies, and stir until ‘melted’.
5. Drain the calabrese thoroughly, and add it to the anchovy sauce.
6. Turn the heat up to medium, and pour the saffron liquid over, and let most – but not all – of it bubble off.
7. When there’s still a little liquid left, add the cooked and drained pasta. This way, the pasta gets to soak up some of the saffron, and will turn a gorgeous yellow colour.
8. Add seasoning to taste, and check consistency. If it all looks a little dry, add a generous drizzle of the best quality olive oil you can lay your hands on. You want this to feel lovely in your mouth, as well as taste good. Keep the pan on the heat just long enough for the olive oil to warm through. Serve with parmesan.
(Edited - I forgot the pine nuts! Aaagh! Anyway, if you like pine nuts, add 1-2 tbsps of pine nuts right at the end of cooking, when you've added the pasta to the calabrese mixture. They're great for added texture and taste - and even better if you toast them lightly beforehand.)