Friday, March 13, 2009

Sicilian Broccoli Pasta

Moving over from Irish food to something completely different...Sicilian cuisine! Okay, I do not profess to be any sort of expert on this region of Italy, but I do know one thing: the Sicilians have mastered the balance of sweet and sour.

Have you ever eaten eggplant caponata? It's a relish-type spread often served on crusty bread and made with onions, tomatoes, capers, olives, peppers and of course eggplant; but, it gets its characteristic sweet and sour tang from raisins or sugar and red wine vinegar (here are a few versions). That's the flavor I was going for with this dish.

I threw it together on the fly as a side for boneless Parmigiano-crusted pork chops (recipe: dip in flour, dip in egg, dip in panko and parm, bake). I happened to have a good quantity of steamed broccoli on hand, and a little bit of one of my favorite whole wheat pastas (Bionaturae Chiocciole from Whole Foods) that had been hanging out in the pantry for months. You could toss in leftover chicken pieces and turn the pasta into a main course or add more veggies for a vegetarian meal.

I hope I've inspired you to try this Sicilian-style pasta, but I want to know if anyone out there has gotten into the St. Patrick's Day spirit with some Irish food yet? I'm thinking about making my Irish Potato Chowder tonight and throwing in some scallops I have in the freezer. I'm hoping it will happen, provided I have enough energy to cook on a Friday night!

Sicilian Broccoli Pasta
I used about 5 ounces of pasta, but there's roughly enough sauce to dress about half a pound. The ingredient amounts can be stretched or even doubled if you want to make a bigger batch.

Serves 2

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 to 8 ounces whole wheat pasta, such as penne or chioccoli
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, preferably unsalted
1/4 cup raisins
1 to 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 to 3 tsp. sugar
2 to 3 cups steamed broccoli

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt liberally and cook pasta according to package directions or until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the raisins, 1 Tbs. vinegar and 2 tsp. sugar. Simmer until slightly thickened and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add additional vinegar and or sugar until the sweet and sour flavor is balanced to your liking. Stir in broccoli to heat through.

Transfer cooked pasta to a large bowl and add the sauce. Toss gently to combine and serve.