I wish I was in Sicily: Casarecce con broccoli, acciughe e pinoli

In my head at least, I spent a lot of lockdown in Sicily. Friends and I had a regular lockdown Saturday night appointment – a shared dinner party menu, eaten together over Skype, and then an episode of Inspector Montalbano, while we whatsapped about who we thought did it. I fell in love with Sicily, the beautiful sea, the history, architecture and food – all through the tv and a number of cookbooks

This evening, in need of something cheerful, I headed to Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Sicily for inspiration.

I’ve made this recipe before – it’s good in that the constituent parts I always tend to have in the kitchen. Tonight no chilis in the vegetable rack, but I had contingency supplies of paste and dried chilli that worked well.

Yes, my jars are labelled with the Italian names… it helps me with learning the language

When you look at the ingredients, certainly many British people might scratch their head and wonder what it will taste like – it’s an unusual mix of ingredients – brocolli, chilli, garlic, breadcrumbs, anchovies, pine nuts, sultanas and pecorino cheese – basically all of Sicilian history in a bowl. But I am here to reassure you – it’s absolutely delicious and all works well, each part balancing with the others.

Water is put on to boil. You melt the anchovies in garlic oil and add toasted breadcrumbs. These should mingle into a super-savoury slightly thickened mixture which you put to one side. At this point you need to pop broccoli in the water until tender.

In a pan you add more olive oil, garlic and the chilli. Once the broccoli is tender you need to remove it from the water (which should stay on boiling for the pasta – which should be added now). Quickly run the broccoli under some cold water so it stays bright green and add it to the chilli pan.

To the chilli-broccoli mix (which frankly I would eat as is, it looks beautiful and I really should do as a side dish more often!) you add pine nuts and sultanas. Keep it on a very low heat until the pasta is cooked.

As always make sure you keep some pasta water reserved for the sauce. I tend to remove an espresso cup full as standard before draining and in this case put a slug in the sauce straight away to plump the sultanas.

Pasta water isn’t usually this colour!

Once drained, add the pasta to the broccoli. Add the anchovy and breadcrumb mixture and mix well. Stir in grated pecorino and add a splash more pasta water if needed to help amalgamate everything.

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