Orecchiette with Broccoli

I like to think that when I’m old, I will be able to look back on my life and see a succession of Sundays, like pearls strung together on a necklace. A highlight reel consisting of the meals we ate and the people with whom they were shared. Sunday is, after all, my favourite day, the highlight of my week, a day dedicated entirely to family and food, when meal preparations start early in the day and dinner lasts long into the evening. We spend almost every Sunday with family, a tradition that’s as old as I can remember. As a girl, our Sundays were spent with my grandparents; my grandmother in the kitchen standing over a simmering pot, my grandfather in his vast garden, tending or harvesting the vegetables that would eventually make it onto our plates and into our stomachs. As kids, we flitted carefree between the two, picking up the basics of cooking and gardening simply by observance of both.

Of course, there were years that I spent living abroad, during which my only Sunday connections were in the form of rushed international phone calls over bowls of pasta. And Sundays living across the country spent tailgating and barbecuing with friends. These moments hold special slots in my highlight reel. And then there were all the Sundays spent in lockdown. Those were the hardest, but the necklace of life consists of both the ups and downs – the happy and the sad moments.

We spent this last Sunday snowed in, just the four of us. It was a wonderful, slow day in the kitchen while the wind rattled the windows and crafted drifts of waist-deep snow against the tree trunks. My teenage son was ravenous, coming in from shoveling the walk. The kids would say he was HANGRY. I was busy making lunch – a verdant dish of orecchiette with broccoli, spicy red pepper and bright, fresh lemon. The kitchen smelled like bacon and Pecorino Romano – the most enticing and piquant aromas and I’m sure they must have wafted outside to beckoned him in. They’re not kidding about teenagers and how they eat you out of house and home. I marvel at how much food my boy can eat, and am so thankful there’s always a reason to make more. I will forever treasure these teenage years. They will be the largest pearls, and I will wear them proudly in the center of the necklace of life, because never more is the food I prepare needed to nourish strong bodies and sustain fragile emotions.

Sometimes I daydream about the future. Sundays when my own grandchildren will dart in and out of the kitchen. It makes me smile. A lifetime come full circle. A necklace of Sunday moments clasped neatly in the back – family, food, love, togetherness. These are the things that string together a life.

Orecchiette with Broccoli and bacon recipe by Rebecca Sherrow
Orecchiette with Broccoli and bacon recipe
Orecchiette with Broccoli and bacon recipe

Orecchiette with Broccoli

It’s never been a struggle to get my kids to eat their vegetables. They would eat their weight in veggies, if I let them. But I imagine if they were picky eaters, this would certainly do the trick.

  • 4 oz. bacon, chopped
  • 12 oz. orecchiette pasta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + extra for drizzling
  • 1 large crown broccoli, washed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a small skillet, cook the chopped bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into florets. Peel the stem and cut into 1/2-inch dice. When the water is boiling, drop in the broccoli. Bring back to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Using a kitchen spider or slotted spoon, remove the broccoli from the water and place in a colander. Run under cool water and set aside to cool. When cool, chop finely.

Cook the orecchiette in the same pot of boiling water to al dente.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Stir in the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Stir in the chopped broccoli and toss to coat in the oil. Season with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes (to taste).

When the pasta has finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet with the broccoli and toss. Turn the heat to medium and slowly pour in just enough of the reserved pasta water to create a sauce that coats the pasta when stirred. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and half of the cheese. Squeeze half the lemon over the hot pasta, catching the seeds in your hand. Toss and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper or red pepper, if needed.

Transfer to a large serving bowl. Pass the remaining cheese at the table, to garnish.

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