Overview

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.


Ingredients

Kosher salt

1 pound (about 6 cups) broccoli florets

12 ounces dried ziti pasta or other similarly shaped pasta

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 fat garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons mascarpone (optional; may substitute full-fat Greek yogurt)

4 ounces (about 2/3 cup) crumbled blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/3 cups pine nuts, toasted (see NOTE; may substitute toasted chopped almonds or walnuts)

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)


Steps

Step 1

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for 3 minutes until it’s bright green and crisp-tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to a colander, and rinse with cold water to help set its color. Drain again and coarsely chop.

Step 2

Return the water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, for 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the package directions.

Step 3

While the pasta is cooking, combine the butter and garlic in a large skillet. Place over medium heat and cook until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped broccoli; cover and cook until the broccoli is very soft, yielding easily to a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes. (The garlic will be very soft, too.) Stir in the mascarpone, if using, and the blue cheese, until the cheese melts. Stir in the pepper and toasted pine nuts.

Step 4

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup or so of its cooking water, and transfer the pasta immediately into the pan with the broccoli and cheese. Stir to combine thoroughly, adding some of the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, as needed to create a creamy sauce that coats the ziti.

Step 5

Divide among bowls and top with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired.

NOTE: Toast the pine nuts in a large, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.

Adapted from “The Way to Eat Now: Modern Vegetarian Food” by Alice Hart (The Experiment, 2019).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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The nutritional analysis based on 6 servings.

More from Voraciously:

This dairy-free ranch dressing is primed for your summertime salads

Asparagus — the most versatile vegetable of spring — is the star of this tortellini salad

A Greek-style collection of toppings turns these ‘pizzas’ into a glorious mess

Nutrition

Calories: 530; Total Fat: 31 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 30 mg; Sodium: 300 mg; Carbohydrates: 50 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 18 g.