Spaghetti carbonara has to be one of the best store cupboard pasta dishes that one can whip up in the time it takes for the spaghetti to boil. We’ve only just discovered that the addition of something green is absolutely brilliant as it helps cut the richness a little and you certainly feel better about getting your greens in even with such a quick meal.

While I’ve seen recipes for courgette carbonara, we like the addition of broccoli. Broccoli keeps for ages in our fridge and well, I just feel courgette can be a bit boring at times. Adding the broccoli doesn’t add any time to the preparation of the pasta dish as it’s cooked with the pasta. And, of course, as my Italian colleagues are likely to shout at you – no cream! The egg and cheese and pasta water will make it all creamy by itself.

Farfalle and Broccoli Carbonara

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
serves 2.

250g dried spaghetti or other pasta shape you need to use up (farfalle in our case)
olive oil
5 slices smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
about 1/2 a small head of broccoli
3 medium-large eggs
about 30-50g grated pecorino romano
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil and get your pasta cooking.

Crack all your eggs into a bowl and beat them well. Add the grated pecorino romano and season with salt and lots of black pepper and beat well again.

Heat a large saute pan and add a little olive oil. Chop the bacon/pancetta and fry off the pieces slowly. Keep on a low heat when ready.

Chop all the broccoli (the stem too) into small pieces and toss them into the pasta water when the pasta is almost done. When the pasta is ready, the broccoli will be too – drain them both and add to the warm pan with the bacon. Stir and while stirring, pour over the egg mixture, and keep mixing all together. The egg and cheese should coat the pasta without scrambling. If it’s looking a bit too dry, add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

It was this photo from Last Night’s Dinner that led me to create this recipe for a Cajun spiced sausage and broccoli pasta – the creamy bowl of carbs was just calling out to me! The original dish (going by the spiffy name of Pasta St. Charles!) from the Palace Cafe in New Orleans contained shrimp as well but as I didn’t have any at hand, it would just have to be sausage. As I was also too lazy to make a vegetable side dish (and the thought of a salad that day didn’t appeal), I opted to add some broccoli directly to the pasta dish.

Cajun Spiced Sausage and Broccoli Pasta

The final result was a total winner in our household and will definitely be repeated! Of course, I have no idea how it compares to the original dish but it tastes how I expect the pasta in the photo to taste so I’m happy! I’m so used to defaulting to a tomato based sauce that this makes a nice change and I’ll continue play around with no tomatoes in my pasta. Again, this is a pasta dish that keeps well – we had the leftovers for lunch the next day.

A note: The Cajun spice blend I used had no added salt. If yours does (I checked my supermarket and the usual brand that’s around has salt as its first ingredient), you might want to reduce this amount and/or play around with the ratio of spice to salt added at the end.

Cajun Spiced Sausage and Broccoli Pasta
serves 2 with leftovers

250g shell pasta
a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
small knob of butter and a splash of sunflower oil
3 large fresh pork sausages, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
a large pinch of dried chili flakes
2 tsps Cajun spice
75 mL double cream
2 tsps Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a pot of water on to boil.

In the meantime, heat a large saute pan over medium heat and heat the sunflower oil and melt down the butter. Brown the sausage meat, breaking it up as it fries. When brown, toss in the garlic, stirring thoroughly and letting it cook. Add the dried chili flakes and Cajun spice and stir and again, let it fry for a minute or two. If there are lots of lovely brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, deglaze it with a bit of water.

That water should be boiling now. Toss in your broccoli florets and boil until tender but still with a bite. Drain and set aside. Reboil that water, adding more if needed. Salt the water and then throw in the pasta to boil.

Back to the sauce. Add the heavy cream and mustard and stir through. You’ll most likely need to thin it all a bit with some water. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir through the broccoli and the pasta when it’s al dente and drained.

Serve with some sliced spring onions and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over. Some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano would also go well on top.

I’m submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Once Upon a Feast.

About a month ago, I was in one of the Italian delis in Soho looking to purchase some orecchiette. One of the ladies behind the counter suggested I just go whole hog and buy the 1kg bag. And that’s how I ended up with a kilo of pasta in a tiny kitchen that’s already full up to the gills. Now to use it up.

My favourite recipe for orecchiette is this one – good with regular ol’ broccoli and I guess must be very good with broccoli rabe. Even if you’re not fond of anchovies, do give it a try – they give a deep savouriness to the dish rather than an unpleasant fishiness.

Orecchiete with Broccoli and Anchovies

Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies
serves 2

200-250g orecchiette (depends on how hungry you are!)
1 small head broccoli
olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
4-6 anchovy fillets or a good squeeze of anchovy paste
chili flakes (optional)
salt and pepper

Saute the sliced onion in olive oil over a low heat and in the meantime, set a pot of water to boil. Chop the broccoli into small florets – don’t let the stem go to waste! Peel it and chop it up too. When the water boils, toss in the broccoli. When the onion is golden, add in the garlic and the anchovies (or the paste) and the chili flakes and saute together. Scoop out the broccoli when it’s as tender as you like it, and add to the onion mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the pasta will be cooking in salted water and that the anchovies can be very salty.

Add salt and the orecchiette to the boiling water. When al dente, drain and toss with the broccoli mixture. Add a little of the pasta water if the mixture looks too dry. Done!