This is our second recipe from our cookbook “Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook”, and one that my daughter chose. I wasn’t very surprised, as she loves broccoli, but then I read the rest of the ingredients and thought, she obviously only read the title. I was quite perplexed at the combination of ingredients as well, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, raisins, anchovies, pine nuts…….in my brain, these ingredients really shouldn’t go together. But they did, marvelously well, and we were all really surprised. My hubs mentioned that he felt that it was because there were really no overpowering flavors, it was just the right amount of each ingredient for it to be harmonious, delicate even!
This recipe is from the southern Italian region of Apulia (Puglia). As the south of Italy was conquered and influenced by the Arabs, this recipe started to make more sense, it was an obvious melange of Arabic and Italian cooking! The use of savoury and sweet is very Arabic, hence the pine nuts and raisins, but then combining it with broccoli, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies is redolent of southern Italian cooking. Many of you will want to omit the anchovies, as I know that not everyone is on that bandwagon, but I ask you to try it out, if my daughter, who hates all things fishy, couldn’t tell and was waxing poetic about this recipe, I am positive you won’t either. Because the recipe calls for you to mash it and then fry it in the olive oil with the garlic, it basically melts in the oil, and adds just a hint of salt and umami to the dish. If you are still hesitant, reduce the amount, but don’t leave it out!
So here is what you’re going to need:
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can (1lb/500g) whole, peeled tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 head broccoli
500g Penne pasta
6 anchovy fillets in oil, mashed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
Grated Pecorino cheese
Soak the raisins in lukewarm water to cover until needed. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about an hour to reduce the sauce.
Meanwhile, separate the broccoli into florets and stems. Peel and slice the stems. Drop into a saucepan of boiling water and cook until the penne are al dente.
Fry the anchovy fillets gently with the garlic and pine nuts in oil, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add to the tomato sauce. Mix in the strained raisins, broccoli florets and a spoonful of the cooking water from the pasta, cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender, stirring frequently.
Add the strained penne to the skillet, and raise the heat to high, stirring frequently to incorporate all the sauce. Serve immediately with the grated Pecorino cheese.
From my kitchen to yours,