Spaghetti with Broccoli Sicilian-style, a pasta dish that will transport you to Southern Italy, in the specific to Sicily, and will awaken all your senses with those hints of saffron, anchovies, raisins, pine nuts, and toasted breadcrumbs. A symphony on the plate.
Song of the day: Bon Appétit, by Katy Perry.
If you ask me which is my favorite type of pasta, I do not have to think about it much. Spaghetti is my answer. I could eat spaghetti anyway and anytime, and you’ll see me twirling those beautiful strands around my fork with such a mastery like only years and years of practice can develop.
Spaghetti marries well with a lot of different sauces, red, white, meaty or vegetarian, from the simple but tasty Tomato Basil sauce, to my beloved Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (garlic, oil, and chili flakes), or the flavorful Ragu’ Bolognese, or the classic Roman dishes Carbonara and Matriciana. There is a spaghetti recipe for every taste, the important thing is to cook them properly, in plenty of salted boiling water, not to cut them in half, and cook them al dente. And to respect the Italian tradition do not consider them a side dish or to accompany a protein. Spaghetti are a course on its own, a primo piatto (first course) in an Italian meal.
Pasta is my go-to meal of choice and more often than not, my only course. Therefore, a dish like this Spaghetti with broccoli Sicilian-style, with saffron, anchovies, raisins, pine nuts, and breadcrumbs is complete for me, a one meal deal. And I do not need anything else.
Spaghetti with Broccoli, a taste of Sicily on the plate.
The island’s dishes are more adventurous than the ones to be found in the rest of Italy. They are usually spicier and sweeter than those of the mainland, and this dish is no exception. Among those flavors, there is an unmistakable Arab touch: the saffron, raisins, and pine nuts, that marry so well with the romanesco broccoli, and that touch of saltiness, the umami, brought by the anchovy fillets. On top of it all, a generous sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs, that are meant to mimic Parmigiano in this dish that is another example of the “poor kitchen” (cucina povera). A dish that is poor by no means, instead, it is rich in texture and flavor.
Of course, as many Italian dishes, there are variations to the recipe. For example, they say you can substitute the anchovies with a splash of tomato paste which will provide that same “saltiness” (and in this case, it will turn this pasta into a vegan dish). Or you could substitute black olives for raisins, and bucatini in place of the spaghetti. As for the type of broccoli, every Region, in Italy, has its own variety and in Sicily, they use the green broccoli, or the cauliflower to make this pasta dish and the green broccoli is a bit different than this Romanesco broccoli that we used here. This type has more texture and a stronger, more robust flavor, which marries well with the compilation of flavors found in this dish.
All in all, an amazing pasta dish that will tantalize your taste buds, as well as all taking you on a joy ride of all your senses.
I have been to Sicily a few times, on what I call “my previous life”. Summers spent in beautiful towns, seaside or historic, archaeological sites spread across the island, and the food has its own characteristics changing from the inland to the coast. Food that is always rich and aromatic, both in the savory and sweet indulgences. This dish is typical of Palermo and the area and it is called pasta “chi vrocculi arriminati”.
Song of the day: Bon Appétit, by Katy Perry.Print
- 1 medium Romanesco broccoli
- 300 g spaghetti
- 25 g pine nuts
- 25 g golden raisins
- 1 package saffron (0.1 g), dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water
- 1 small onion
- 2 anchovies fillet in salt & oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 Tbsp e.v.o. oil
- cooking pasta water as needed
- 50 g breadcrumbs, toasted
- Clean and wash the Romanesco broccoli, then cut into florets and boil them in salted water for about 5-6 minutes. Take out with a colander and set aside. Keep the cooking water, which you will use to cook the spaghetti.
- Soften the raisins and pine nuts in lukewarm water, then drain and set aside.
- Mince the onion and fry in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the onion is translucent, add the anchovy fillets, crushing them with a wooden spoon.
- Add the raisins and pine nuts and saute them for a few minutes.
- At this point, add the chopped broccoli and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.
- Mix well with a wooden spoon, add a saffron sachet dissolved with a few spoonfuls of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Cook the spaghetti in the water where the broccoli cooked in. Drain them, reserving some of the pasta water.
- Mix them with the seasoning, adding the pasta water as you toss them in the pan letting the ingredients coat them.
- Toast the breadcrumbs with a tablespoon of e.v.o. oil (paying attention not to burn it) and dust it over the pasta (cheese of the poor, says the tradition).
- Serve warm with a drizzle of e.v.o. oil on top.
You can substitute the anchovy fillet with one Tbsp of tomato paste to give the dish the same umami (this will allow the pasta dish to be vegan).
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