The combination of sweet and spicy flavors in this recipe is typical of the cooking in Western Sicily, and comes from the Arab influence in Sicilian cuisine, while the use of parmigiano is our preference over Sicilian caciocavallo cheese in this dish! Like all simple Italian dishes, the secret to success is to use top quality ingredients, so look for very fresh tender broccoli and use the best extra virgin olive oil on your shelf.
Serves 4 – 6
- 1 oz. (2 heaping TB) pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 oz. (1/4 cup) golden raisins (zibibbo are best)
- 1 lb. (450 grams) tender broccoli, with a few leaves
- 1 lb. (450 grams) pasta (tortiglioni or fusilli)
- 2 oz. (¾-1 cup) grated parmigiano
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Hot red pepper
Put the raisins in a little bowl and fill with water until just covered, and leave to soak. (The tiny zibibbo variety of raisins are plump and very sweet, but you can use any kind of golden raisin.) Toast the pine nuts in a non-stick pan over a medium flame until golden, tossing them frequently so they don’t burn, then set aside.
Cut the broccoli in large hunks and cook it, along with a few broccoli leaves, in boiling salted water until tender but not mushy. It should be “al dente.” (If you like a stronger taste to the pasta, don’t dump out the broccoli cooking water, but use it to cook the pasta.)
Pour the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the raisins (that you have drained and squeezed of excess liquid), pine nuts, and hot pepper, and cook over a medium flame for a couple of minutes. Add the broccoli cut into smaller pieces and toss well, cooking over a medium flame for 3 minutes.
In a separate pot, in plenty of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until very “al dente”(a minute less than recommended time) – it will finish cooking in the sauté pan. Drain the pasta in a colander, and toss it into the sauté pan with the rest of the ingredients. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes until all is amalgamated and the pasta is now perfectly “al dente.” Put the hot pasta in a serving bowl, and add about half of the parmigiano, mixing so that it melts and sticks to the pasta (don’t do this in the sauté pan as most of the parmigiano will end up stuck to the pan instead of the pasta!)
Serve with additional parmigiano on the side, to add if you like. Pop the cork on a Sicilian red wine such as Planeta’s La Segreta and you’ll soon be savoring Sicily from your home kitchen.
Variation from Eastern Sicily: Instead of pinenuts and raisins, sauté a garlic clove and a few anchovies with the hot pepper, and add the broccoli with a glass of white wine. Use pecorino cheese instead of parmigiano. In this case, drink a white wine like Planeta’s Segreta Bianco. Buon appetito!