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In which broccoli becomes a light, silky pasta sauce
Milk Street Bowtie Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

35 minutes

Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

Free

Romans use the leaves that grow around heads of broccoli to make a flavorful sauce for pasta. In the U.S., most of the leaves are stripped off before broccoli is sold. Our recipe instead uses the stems, which are equally flavorful and produce a silky sauce. Baby spinach retains the color of the original recipe.

1 pound broccoli, stems and florets separated
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups packed baby spinach
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
12 ounces rigatoni pasta
1 ounce pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup), plus more to serve
Ingredients
  • 1

    pound broccoli, stems and florets separated

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • cups packed baby spinach

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, chopped

  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

  • 1

    tablespoon drained capers

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 2

    tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, divided

  • 12

    ounces rigatoni pasta

  • 1

    ounce pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup), plus more to serve

Directions
  1. 01
    In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Peel the broccoli stems, reserving any leaves, and cut crosswise into ½-inch rounds. Add the stems and leaves to the boiling water and cook until fully tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender; reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Keep the water at a boil.
  2. 02
    Cut the broccoli florets into 1- to 1½-inch pieces. Add the florets to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled. Again keep the water at a boil.
  3. 03
    To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest and the reserved broccoli cooking water. Puree until smooth and bright green, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  4. 04
    Stir the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli puree, ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the cheese. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Tip: Don’t undercook the broccoli stems. We're accustomed to cooking vegetables until crisp-tender, but the stems here should be cooked until fully tender.
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Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

35 minutes

Tip

Don’t undercook the broccoli stems. We're accustomed to cooking vegetables until crisp-tender, but the stems here should be cooked until fully tender.

Ingredients
  • 1

    pound broccoli, stems and florets separated

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • cups packed baby spinach

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, chopped

  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

  • 1

    tablespoon drained capers

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 2

    tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, divided

  • 12

    ounces rigatoni pasta

  • 1

    ounce pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup), plus more to serve

Step 1 of 4

Cook the broccoli and spinach

1
pound broccoli, stems and leaves only
cups packed baby spinach

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Peel the broccoli stems, reserving any leaves, and cut crosswise into ½-inch rounds. Add the stems and leaves to the boiling water and cook until fully tender, about 10 minutes.


Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender; reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Keep the water at a boil.

Step 2 of 4

Cook the florets

1
pound broccoli, florets only

Cut the broccoli florets into 1- to 1½-inch pieces. Add the florets to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.


Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled. Again keep the water at a boil.

Step 3 of 4

Blend the sauce

2
medium garlic cloves, chopped
4
tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1
tablespoon drained capers
½
teaspoon red pepper flakes
¾
teaspoon kosher salt
1
tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest and the reserved broccoli cooking water.


Puree until smooth and bright green, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Step 4 of 4

Cook, stir, and serve

1
tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1
ounce pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup), plus more to serve
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Stir the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain.


Return pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli puree, ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the cheese.


Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

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