Cook broccoli long enough and it becomes comfort food

  • Forget about crisp-tender, this Ziti with Broccoli and Toasted Pine Nuts becomes overcooked, overindulgent -- "It's perfect," says Joe Yonan.

    Forget about crisp-tender, this Ziti with Broccoli and Toasted Pine Nuts becomes overcooked, overindulgent -- "It's perfect," says Joe Yonan. Justin Tsucalas for The Washington Post

 
By Joe Yonan
The Washington Post
Updated 6/25/2019 3:02 PM

As a son of the South, I have a thing for long-cooked vegetables. One of the dishes my mother made that I remember most fondly was her broccoli cream-cheese casserole, for which the broccoli was steamed until soft, then combined with cream cheese and butter, showered with bread crumbs and baked. It was a far cry from the crisp-tender, bright-green broccoli that took hold a decade or two later -- it wasn't health food, in other words -- and I loved every bite.

This pasta dish from Alice Hart, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbook authors, reminds me of that casserole. Broccoli, boiled for a few minutes then cooked again until soft in garlicky butter, provides the bulk. The indulgence comes from blue cheese and a little mascarpone, which create a luxurious yet punchy sauce. For crunch, there are more pine nuts than might seem reasonable.

 

All of it, in fact, seems like too much, at least at first: The broccoli is cooked too long, there's too much blue cheese, too many nuts. Until you taste it and realize that it's perfect.

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