Pasta with broccoli ‘alla Siciliana’ is a traditional first course that has a tasty sauce made with green broccoli, sultanas, pine nuts, anchovy fillets, and toasted breadcrumbs. There are different versions of this dish all over the island, including a completely vegetarian version. In Sicily, the non vegetarian version of the dish is called ‘Pasta chi vruocculi arriminati’, that is, stirred directly in the pan, and it has salted anchovy fillets for an even richer flavour.
- 400 g short pasta (Penne Rigate, Orecchiette)
- 600 – 700 g broccoli
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Chili pepper (optional)
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 3 tbsp raisins
- 4 anchovy fillets (optional)
- Olive oil
- 4 tbsp breadcrumbs
- Clean the broccoli and cut it into florets. Boil them in salted water for about 15 minutes. Save the cooking water, which you will use to cook the pasta. The broccoli should become soft, but not too soft, as it will later continue cooking in the pan.
- Soak the sultanas and pine nuts in warm water to soften.
- In the meantime, take a low and wide frying pan and pour in plenty of olive oil. Add the garlic clove and chili pepper and sauté over a low flame. Be careful not to burn it. Then add the anchovy fillets and melt (crush) them with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the drained pine nuts and sultanas.
- At this point, add the broccoli and stir well (arriminate) with a wooden spoon. When you see that the sauce is about to get too dry, add 1-2 ladles of the broccoli cooking water, cover with the lid and leave to cook over a medium flame.
- In the meantime, cook the pasta in the broccoli cooking water and when it is 2 minutes from the end of cooking, transfer it to the pan with the sauce with a skimmer. Stir the pasta with the broccoli and finish cooking, adding some of the remaining pasta water when necessary.
- When cooked, remove from the heat and add Parmesan cheese if you like. Alternatively, you can sprinkle “muddica atturrata” on top – the cheese of the poor, according to tradition. ‘Muddica atturrata’ is made by putting a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan with some breadcrumbs, which you toast without burning them. When the breadcrumbs are well coloured, remove them from the heat and sprinkle them over the pasta.
- The vegetarian version uses no anchovies but keeps the rest the same.
- In some versions the sultanas (raisins) are replaced by black olives.
- In yet another non vegetarian version 1 medium-sized white onion is used instead of the garlic, and salted sardines are used instead of the anchovies. The onion adds some more sweetness to the dish and the salted sardines make it even richer in taste. The onion is fried on a low flame. Frying the onion well is crucial for the success and digestibility of this dish.
- Some versions add saffron dissolved in a few tablespoons of the broccoli boiling water to the broccoli mix.