When I see “cream” in the title of a pasta sauce I cringe, but this recipe is quite different. The cream is the puréed vegetable. It is like making pesto, but instead of basil you use blanched broccoli. And let this start your creative juices flowing: substitute for the broccoli other seasonal vegetables, or vegetables your family loves. You can also add a protein, like shrimp or chicken. This is the ultimate commonsense recipe. Just pick the right vegetable and the right protein and you’re ready to go.
- 8 ounces small broccoli florets
- ½ cup blanched almonds, toasted
- 1 loosely packed cup fresh basil leaves
- ½ loosely packed cup fresh parsley leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 pound vermicelli
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and blanch until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Save the water to cook the vermicelli. Fish the broccoli out with a spider, rinse the florets under cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. Put the broccoli in a food processor with the almonds, basil, parsley, and salt. Drizzle in ¼ cup of olive oil, and pulse to make a coarse purée.
In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. In the meantime, salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Once the garlic is sizzling, scrape in the broccoli purée. Cook and stir for a few minutes, then ladle in 1 cup of pasta water. Simmer the sauce while the pasta cooks. When the pasta is al dente, remove with tongs and add directly to the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the grated cheese, and serve. Top with more toasted almond slivers if you like.