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Almond and Roasted Broccoli Penne

Posted Apr 12 2010 12:00am
I'm the only vegetarian in my entire family and I've been one since high school. When I still lived at home I had to learn to cook vegetarian meals on my own. I never had anyone to really look up to and talk with when it came to feeding my body the things it needed. I had to read and learn most things on my own, which I think fueled my passion for food and healthy eating even more. Back then I ate a lot of cereal, cheese sandwiches, and bean burritos.

Because I learned mostly on my own, it has made me a some-what shy cook. I really love to cook, but most everyone who knows me always relies on my baking. I've grown into this role, where I am always the one who volunteers to bring the dessert. This also falls into the category of breakfast foods, because cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and muffins are all too close to being desserts anyways. I love this role, because sweets and treats make people feel good, it brings out celebration and smiles; and trust me when I say I'll never stop baking, I love dessert way too much, but it's not the only thing I know.
Baking cookies with my mom was my first introduction to the kitchen. I learned to cook, using skills taken from my mom and grandmothers, but using them in my own way. My style of cooking is definitely not one in the same, and because of this I rarely feel comfortable bringing a dish to share to a family function. I've taken my fair share of half joking comments over the years too, which probably didn't help with this fear.
Since I started this blog, I've been introduced to so many other talented cooks . I've come to realize that this is who I am and what I like to eat. So if I want to bring over a salad or side dish of pasta, than that is what I'm bringing. I need to stop hiding behind pound cakes and brownies and bring dishes like this pasta. Because it's good. Really, really good. And there is no meat in it, but I think you'll still like it. I love reading through Heide's blog and , she throws down healthy, delicious food like nobody's business. What I love most about her cooking is not only the healthy side of it, but how many of the dishes she makes are easily adaptable. Take this pasta, she used walnuts, I used almonds. She used a pasta shape called farro strozzapreti, I used whole wheat penne. She served her's alone, I tossed in some roasted broccoli. It was fast, it was easy, it was simple. It was pure pasta love. It was the exact thing I was craving, and I was satisfied when I finished my bowl.
Almond and Roasted Broccoli Penne Adapted from Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs via 101cookbooks
serves 6
3/4 cup almonds1 clove garlic, peeled1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil1 teaspoon marjoram, chopped3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped1/2 cup pecorino Romano, gratedsalt & pepper1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1 pound broccoli, cut into floretsextra-virgin olive oilsalt and pepperpinch of red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat the oven to 450˚F.
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli florets with a couple glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Transfer to a large baking sheet and spread the broccoli into one even layer. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until some of the edges have started to brown.
Meanwhile heat a large pot of water, it will take a while for it to come to a boil.
Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle, and pound to a fine paste. Add the almonds to the mortar and pestle and pound into a paste, I left mine a little on the chunky side. You can also do this in a food processor.
Transfer the nut mixture to a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, then add most of the herbs. Stir in the pecorino, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
Salt the pasta water generously, and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and reserve a big cup of the pasta water. Toss the walnut pesto with the pasta and broccoli, if you need to thin out the sauce use the reserved water. Serve topped with a sprinkling of the remaining herbs.
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