- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Eating perciatelli — spaghetti with a hole down the middle — is a challenge. It cooks into thick springy strings that refuse to stay coiled around your fork. Even when you succeed in getting it where you want it, a few strands always manage to untwirl, leaving strands of perciatelli cascading down your chin.

Similar to bucatini pasta, perciatelli is a long, thin strand with a hole down the center. Whether you’re cooking with perciatelli or bucatini, it’s best eaten with a thin oil-based sauce without a lot of chunky ingredients. The sauce will work its way up into the hole, giving it flavor both inside and out.

One of my favorite ways to eat perciatelli is with clam sauce, but for a quick and easy midweek supper, I like it made with ingredients that are always on hand: olive oil, garlic, hot red pepper flakes, fresh broccoli, fresh bread crumbs and freshly grated pecorino Romano, a tangy sheep’s-milk cheese.

For dessert, I serve Italian biscotti along with a generous scoop of lemon or other pure fruit sorbet or, as they say in Italian, sorbetto.

Perciatelli with garlic oil, broccoli and golden bread crumbs

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the cooking time is 15 minutes.

2 to 3 thick (½-inch) slices day-old Italian bread

2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper

12 ounces perciatelli (long, thin, hollow pasta)

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 bag (12 ounces) broccoli florets, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon thin-sliced garlic

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste

½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut crusts from bread slices, if they’re very hard, and discard. Cut bread into ½-inch cubes. Place in food processor, and process into coarse crumbs. There should be about 1 cup packed crumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet until hot enough to sizzle a pinch of crumbs. Add crumbs; cook, stirring, over medium high heat until golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add perciatelli and 2 tablespoons kosher salt, or to taste, to the boiling water; cook, stirring gently to fold, not break, the pasta as it softens. Cook until it is pliable but not fully cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Add broccoli and cook until broccoli and pasta are tender but not mushy, 2 to 4 minutes more. Ladle out ½ cup of the pasta-cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and broccoli.

Meanwhile, combine remaining ¼ cup olive oil and garlic slices in a small skillet, and saute over medium heat, stirring, just until garlic begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add hot red pepper flakes; remove from heat.

Transfer drained pasta and broccoli to cooking pot. Add reserved pasta-cooking liquid, garlic oil and half of the cheese. Stir over low heat until well-coated, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the pasta and any liquid into a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and remaining cheese. Makes 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES INTERNATIONAL

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