It's safe to say the reason I am so passionate about food is due to my family and my upbringing. My father was born in Trento Italy, and his parents raised him there until they migrated to Australia in 1959. Dad was 9 years old at the time.
He tells me stories of his childhood which are so reminiscent of the movie The Wog Boy that it's not funny. His lunchbox would be full of salami and other meats, olives, pasta and essentially anything that had been cooked in the home the night prior by my Nonna. Unlike the movie however, all the kids would be envious and he told me how he would sell his lunch to the other kids and make a quick buck. Typical.
Well, I had the exact same childhood. I never went to school with a packed sandwich. I never had muesli bars. Actually I never had anything that was pre-packaged like we see too much of these days. I would have containers full of left overs, and boy did I love it.
On the flip side my mum came from a very true blue Australian family. They only ever cooked pasta to eat it with milk and sugar over the top. Um.. what? Yes I still don't understand it today. My nan (her mother) was an amazing cook and I cherish photos of the extravagant dinner parties she used to hold. She would be cooking for days prior just so everything was perfect.
When my mum met my dad, it was instilled in her to try Italian cooking. She would go to my Nonna's for dinner and would ask for cooking tips. She learnt in the same way I have by watching and writing down the ingredients and method as Nonna cooked away. When mum would cook a meal for them, they would sit to eat and criticism was always given. Whilst constructive I'm not sure it would have been pleasant- anyone who knows a true Italian knows what I'm saying here. But this essentially ensured that she learnt quicker and became the fantastic cook she is today.
All this said and done however, there are some dishes that neither my mum, nor I can perfect quite like Nonna! I don't know why. Maybe she adds something when we aren't looking?
This recipe I post today is one of my all time favourite Nonna meals. I have so many memories associated to eating this pasta. It is just so unbelievably good, and so simple. That is the biggest thing you can learn about Italian food. Its simplicity. Good flavours that aren't complicated.
The key is to cook it slowly, and don't let the pan get too hot or it will burn. It may seem like a lot of oil, but remember this essentially is the sauce for the dish. You will notice the appearance will change drastically as the broccoli cooks down. Don't skimp on the Parmesan, and make sure you get a good one. I'd also say the same for the pasta. I bought this fantastic Italian made pasta from Bottega and Rotollo, a new Italian deli in Bathurst Street Hobart. It was delicious and ensures a nice quick and easy meal!
One last thing. Broccoli is the wonder vegetable. It is low in calories and carbohydrates, yet full of vitamin C, B-vitamins, calcium and fibre. So don't waste any of it. I see so many people cutting off and throwing away the stems. Don't! This is the best bit and tastes so great when cooked in this way. Also if you are unable to get organic produce be sure to wash it thoroughly as broccoli is sprayed heavily with pesticides.
1 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3 broccoli bunches
2 teaspoons Vegeta
500g packet Farfalle pasta
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan cheese to serve
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. I use about 2 tablespoons of table salt to 4 litres of water.
Wash the broccoli well and cut the stem into small logs. Cut the main head into its individual florets.
Meanwhile crush the garlic and finely chop the shallots and add them along with the olive oil to a large non-stick saucepan. Heat over a medium heat until the garlic turns golden. Add the broccoli and Vegeta and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, constantly stirring and checking. If it seems to be getting a little dry, add some water.
Add pasta to your boiling water and cook for 12 minutes. Strain and toss broccoli and oil through the pasta ensuring it coats the pasta evenly.
Season and serve with Parmesan cheese.