Torcetti with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella
I mean, I know it’s fall, but I’m not really feeling it yet. The weather is partially to blame, as NYC Indian summer was in full force until late last week, but there are other factors in play. I haven’t done any of my fall rituals yet!
First and foremost, I have yet to get my fall coffee fix. I’m not into the PSL (which is shocking given my affinity for most things basic), but I do always buy a couple bags of coffee from this uber hipster place in my hood called Porto Rico Importing Co. to kick off the season. They have barrels and barrels of different flavored beans, which they grind on the spot and then seal in little hand-stamped artisanal paper bags. The pumpkin spice blend speaks to me.
Second, my roommate has been traveling a lot, which means that there hasn’t been much football watching. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate the foose, but being forced to watch the Eagles shit the bed is a fall tradition, and having free reign over the TV is only intensifying my seasonal dysmorphia.
Finally, I’ve been in a deep, dark hole working on The Dude Diet, which has thrown a lot of things into disarray. For example, every September I make a ritualistic trek to storage to retrieve my fall wardrobe. (I have a storage unit. Because I am a hoarder.) The clothes never even made it to storage in the spring because I was busy testing meatballs, so this year’s “Welcome to Fall!” extravaganza at Manhattan Mini Storage has been unceremoniously canceled.
Anyhoo, all this seasonal confusion has affected my eating habits. By early October, I’ve usually made multiple pots of stew or chili, something butternut, and at least a batch or two of apple/pumpkin baked goods. That’s yet to happen. Instead, I’m very, very slowly easing into to autumn with things like grilled cheese, pumpkin smoothies, and this Torcetti with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella.
This transitional dish is just the right balance of fresh and hearty to bridge the summer-fall gap. To me, pasta always feels cozy, but this particular recipe isn’t quite as stick-to-your-ribs as something like carbonara or bolognese, which are better saved for the latter half of sweater season. (Sidenote: I swear I’m going to make Marcella Hazan’s bolognese this year. I am.)
Let’s break this pasta down a bit, shall we?
This was my first time using broccoli rabe as a pesto base, and I have to say, it’s delightful. In case you’re not familiar, broccoli rabe is a cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), and it has a distinctly bitter taste with some spicy flavors kicking around just below the surface. A quick blanch in salt water tames the bitterness significantly, so when you process the florets with toasted pine nuts, garlic, lemon, crushed red pepper and plenty of parmesan, you get a bright, mild pesto with a hint of earthiness and a subtle kick. I seriously dig it, and while it’s perfect on pasta, I think I’d be just as psyched to dunk veggies in it or spread it on a sandwich (read: grilled cheese).
A quick note on the “subtle kick.” I personally find this pesto to be mild, but if you have a lot of spice babies in your circle (I do), dial back the crushed red pepper to ¼ teaspoon, taste it, and then gradually build the heat if you like. On the same front, if you love spice, turn that shit up and go with a full teaspoon. You. Do. You.
I chose to toss this pesto with torcetti, a sassy little twisted number, but if you can’t find it, farfalle (aka bowties), orecchiettte, and penne would all be great subs. I also threw some fresh mozzarella pearls into the mix at the last minute, which was a great call. They get slightly melted by the warm pasta, giving you an ooey-gooey cheese factor that’s pretty irresistible.
The best part about this pasta is that it comes together in under half an hour, making it ideal for busy weeknights and/or a stress-free choice casual entertaining. It’s a great vegetarian recipe to have in your repertoire, but you should obviously feel free to bulk it up with some sausage or pancetta for a meatier meal. (I added some turkey Italian sausages to leftovers, and it was bomb.) Get on it, peeps.
Oh, and congratulations to Stephanie, the winner of a brand new set of Todd English Titan pans!!! Thank you to everyone who entered last week’s giveaway—I had the best time reading (and in many cases, creepily giggling over) your celebrity chef crushes. It was incredibly tempting to respond to each and every comment, but I didn’t want you to get a notification and think you’d won ze giveaway, only to discover that it was just me saying hey, and that I too think Ina is a saucy minx.
p.s. To those that chose me as your fave “celeb” chef (perhaps forgetting that I was going to pick the winner at random?), you are ridiculous and I love you. Being someone’s “food blog lady”/”weird cooking lady” has been a longtime dream of mine, so thank you.
Torcetti with Broccoli Rabe and Fresh Mozzarella: (Serves 4-6)
½ pound broccoli rabe, thick stems removed
½ cup pine nuts, toasted.
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ lemon, juiced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound torcetti pasta (or pasta of your choice)
6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls (about ¾ cup)
Preparing your Torcetti with Broccoli Rabe and Fresh Mozzarella:
-Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
-Meanwhile, prep your broccoli rabe. Separate the florets from the stems. (You can discard the stems, or save to use in stir-fries, frittatas, etc. if you like.)
-Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a good pinch of salt. When boiling, add the pasta and cook al dente according to the package directions. (Really try not to overcook your pasta, peeps.) Strain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
-Return the pasta to the pot and add the broccoli rabe pesto, along with a little pasta cooking water. Toss to coat. (The pasta water will loosen the pesto and help it coat the pasta. You’ll probably only need about ¼ cup tops, so add a little at a time until you reach the perfect consistency.) Add the mozzarella pearls and toss again.
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