Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pasta shells with roasted broccoli and walnuts

Pasta salad is currently on the menu at work one time each week. When I started in December, I quickly discovered that the residents had tired of the vinaigrette-based salad.

To offer variety, I often morph the salad into a hot pasta dish every other week. This gives me the opportunity to experiment with a full range of different flavors.

Successful tests will be incorporated into the new menu, which will feature one pasta dish for lunch each week.

Spaghetti puttanesca filled the void twice in the past two weeks. While popular, the sharp bite of the puttanesca isn't universally accepted.

Today's pasta dish came from an article that I clipped in the doctor's office last year. The photograph of the dark green roasted broccoli in a bed of pasta shells caught my attention.

Since I was looking for vegetarian entrees at the time, I clipped the recipe and filed it in my large recipe binder.

As often happens, the recipe sat in the binder for a year. I had intended to use it at Deer Crossing Camp this past summer.

The recipe could've made a good inter-session dish. The crew would've enjoyed the rich blending of broccoli and walnuts roasted in olive oil with garlic.

It's a fair compromise when you feed a significant number of vegetarians, as I did during inter-session at Deer Crossing.


To use frozen broccoli spears, steam until cooked about halfway. Cut the stems off the broccoli. Reserve the stems and cooking liquid for cream of broccoli soup.

Roast as directed. Since the semi-cooked florets will be moist, the roasting process may take a few minutes longer.

2-1/2 pounds pasta shells
6 pounds broccoli, cut into small florets
2 cups walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, toss the broccoli, walnuts, oil, garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper together. Pour onto a sheet pan. Roast in a 400-degree F oven until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the broccoli mixture, butter and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. (Add more water if the pasta seems dry.) Sprinkle with the Parmesan before serving.

Serves 24 portions.