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For as long as I can remember, my mom made broccoli and pasta–something she learned when she moved to my hometown, the sister city of Melilli, Sicily. I point this out as my Nanny wasn’t a nonna, so my mom learned Italian cooking from her neighbor, Mrs. Adorno. Then my mom passed what she learned on to me over time.

Though I wasn’t quite so fond of trees (you know, kid code for broccoli) back then, somehow, the magic of garlic and pasta with “sprinkle cheese”–always Pecorino Romano in our house–even made trees taste good. And now that I make this on my own, I’ve adapted the original recipe to include hot sausage, white beans, lemon juice and lemon zest. It’s versatile. You can add and subtract as you like. So, let’s get cookin’!

BROCCOLI ‘N PASTA WITH HOT SAUSAGE AND WHITE BEANS

1 pound broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 shallot, chopped
Olive oil
1 pound hot sausage (I love Longhini, out of  New Haven–you can buy locally at Xpect Discounts in Cromwell)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (cannelini, navy beans or small white beans)
1 tablespoon or so of butter (optional)
1/2 pound pasta–try bite-sized rigatoni or double elbows (a.k.a. cellentani or cavatappi)
Note: save 1/2 cup of pasta water before you drain. Tip: put a 1/2 cup measure in your colander as a reminder!

Steam your broccoli till it’s tender, but still bright green. Timing? Oh, I don’t know. Set the timer for 5 minutes or so after it boils and stick a fork in it to check after that.

Meantime, boil a pot of water, add salt, cook pasta according to package instructions. Save a 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you drain it.

Sautee garlic and shallot in a skillet. You know the drill: don’t let it brown! Add sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces as it cooks. Once the sausage is no longer pink, add the beans to warm them up. Then add the lemon zest and juice along with the broccoli and pasta. Let the butter melt in as you toss. Add however much pasta water you like to make a bit of a sauce. You may find you like it with more or less–it’s up to you.

Serve with grated Pecorino Romano and crushed red hot pepper flakes. And a nice glass of wine, if you like. This reheats beautifully with a spin in the microwave.

So, what will be your pasta shape of choice for this dish? Back in the day, it seems ziti was a popular pick overall. For this broccoli dish, it was often elbows. For vodka sauce, penne. And for sauce in general, spaghetti or perhaps the occasional screws (rotini). Screws is a funny word, anyway. Especially because in its singular form, it was a verb in my family: “Oh, really? Well, screw that!”

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