integral orecchiette with broccoli

When you think of beans in world cuisine, Mexican food probably springs to mind. You might also think of all the great American recipes that call for beans of all colors and flavors. But did you know beans, also known as fagioli, are a staple of the Italian diet? In many Italian households, they set aside a day or two where their protein comes mainly from beans–not a bad idea! Beans can be found in soups and stews, like the famous pasta e fagioli, crostini spreads and, of course, in pasta.

In this dish, white beans add bulk and body to an incredibly simple yet flavorful dish.

This vegetarian (or vegan, if you omit the cheese) recipe is perfect for Meatless Mondays or any time you want a quick  and delicious pasta meal. A whole head of broccoli adds fantastic color and nutrition to this dish, but the real secret ingredient is crushed red pepper flake. Combined with the bitter broccoli and the almost sweet garlic, it makes the whole dish sing. Do use fresh Italian parsley rather than dried; its vibrant green flavor adds so much to this dish.

Orecchiette are an Italian favorite pasta. Their name literally means “little ear,” and it’s easy to see why when looking at their shape. If you can’t find orecchiette at your supermarket, no worries. Use any shell-shaped pasta in its place.

Serve this up alongside a lightly dressed salad and a glass of crisp prosecco.

Spicy Orecchiette with Broccoli and Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 large head broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 16 ounces orecchiette
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 24-ounce jar Randall Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely shredded

Instructions

  1. Bring 6 to 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt. Meanwhile, while water is boiling, wash the broccoli and trim off the florets. Peel the stems with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1/4" slices. Place in a sieve and lower into the boiling water for 45 seconds. Remove and refresh with cold water. Drain well.
  2. Put the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the hot water. Return the pasta to the empty pot.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic, broccoli and crushed pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in the Randall Great Northern Beans and the reserved cooking water. Cook 3 minutes longer, stirring.
  4. Stir in the parsley and season with salt to taste. Toss the bean mixture with the hot pasta. Toss in half of the cheese and pass the remainder to spoon over the top of the pasta.
  5. Makes 6 servings.
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