My Sister's Broccoli

My Sister’s Broccoli

My sister Mary Pat adapted this recipe from a popular pasta that her Italian friend Roberto Broglia, owner of the legendary but now closed restaurant Pasta Mia in Washington DC, made.  Mary Pat remembered that he blanched the broccoli florets, tossed them with a generous amount of garlic olive oil and caramelized garlic cloves.  He added the garlicky vegetable to  al dente pasta and finished it with lots of real parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of red-pepper flakes.  As my sister started cooking for her family, she looked for new ways to make broccoli that was both healthy and delicious.  She remembered the broccoli pasta and started making it sanspasta, and the rest is history.  Now, I have broccoli on my home rotation.  Will wonders never cease?!

My Sister’s Broccoli

Serves 4-6


1          head of broccoli

½        cup peeled garlic cloves

½-1     cup extra-virgin olive oil

1          teaspoon Kosher salt 

½        cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese

            Pinch of red-pepper flakes, optional


Trim the broccoli and cut off the florets. I like to cut them in the natural clumps that you can see, but you can also slice the florets down the middle of the “trunk” and cut the florets  in half or in quarters if they are really large. Place these in a bowl and run cold water to wash over them to wash away any dirt. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the raw garlic cloves and the oil in a small saucepan with a lid and simmer on low heat until the cloves are caramelized and brown and the oil is fragrant, about 15 minutes.  If the garlic isn’t golden enough, increase the heat and tilt the pan until all the garlic is submerged in the oil.  Season the oil with a pinch of salt.  Set aside, but keep warm.  If you make the oil and garlic in advance, warm on the stovetop or in the microwave before using to season the hot blanched broccoli.

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir. Add the broccoli florets and cook until crisp-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the florets to a clean serving bowl.  Do not plunge them in ice water because you want them warm to absorb the garlic and cheese.  

Pour the oil and garlic cloves over the broccoli. Toss the broccoli and dust liberally with the grated parmesan cheese.  If you like things a little spicy, add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Serve immediately. It is best eaten warm or at room temperature.