Zesty lemon pasta with broccoli (~3 servings)

We've all got that one friend who, no matter the event or the group of surrounding peers, can liven up any situation. Maybe you're at a interminable family dinner with the most dull of relatives, but if that particular friend is in attendance, the laughter flows freely and the times speeds by. You barely even notice how soul-crushingly boring your family is, because you're so focused on the enthusiasm your friend -- literally and figuratively -- brings to the table.

Sauce is that friend. It makes drab, predictable dishes new again! It makes ordinary ingredients taste exotic and exciting! It takes the edge off listening to your Aunt Edna tell the story about her trip to Fort Lauderdale -- AGAIN! (Okay, so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch.)

In this situation, a bright, acidic, just-barely-decadent sauce livens up doughy noodles and nutritious-but-not-always-exciting broccoli. I based the sauce on this recipe, adding some basil and changing up the proportions a bit. If you are lucky enough to find a lemon-flavored pasta (I used Trader Joe's lemon pepper pappardelle), you'll end up with extra lemony zestiness!

You will need:

  • Half a pound of dried wide noodles (pappardelle, fettuccine, mafalde, tagliatelle, etc.)
  • One bunch of fresh broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Grated Parmesan

Steps:

  1. Start the water boiling in a large stockpot.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the garlic clove in half and rub the inside of a large serving bowl with the garlic. (I know that sounds weird, but it gently whispers "garlic" to the dish instead of screaming in its face.)
  3. Zest the lemon and place that zest in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the jar. Finally, pour in an amount of olive oil equal to double the lemon juice you were able to squeeze out. (Just eyeball it.) Season with salt and pepper, put the lid on securely, and shake the heck out of it.
  4. Once the water boils, cook the pasta until just al dente. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water for the last three minutes of that cooking time. Drain thoroughly and immediately transfer the pasta and broccoli to the serving dish.
  5. Pour the sauce from the jar onto the pasta; toss gently to combine. Top with torn basil leaves and a handful of grated Parmesan; toss gently again. Serve immediately.

I'd love to try this again with roasted garlic and some artichoke hearts! Sliced black olives would probably be lovely, too.