Spaghetti with purple sprouting broccoli, garlic and chilli

I wouldn’t claim that there’s anything remotely original about this recipe. It’s just very, very nice for one. Or two. Or four, come to that. My brother Johnny, a long-time resident of Rome, likes to make it using a variety of broccoli you can’t find in this country, which has a wild, slightly bitter flavour, but I think it works just as well with purple (or white) sprouting broccoli. One pointer: always salt the pasta water well. It may seem excessive in view of contemporary dietary concerns, but if the water has been correctly seasoned, there won’t be any need to add salt to the finished dish. And of course you can use some other pasta. Orecchiete, the classic pasta of Puglia and Basilicata, is particularly suited.

The measurements are per person. Just multiply for larger numbers.

100g dried spaghetti

1 handful purple sprouting broccoli

Olive oil

3 cloves garlic

2 small hottish dried red chillis


Black pepper


Bring a pan of water to the boil. Roughly chop the broccoli and add to the boiling water. Cook for a minute or two. Fish out with a slotted spoon (and plunge into cold water until cold if you can be bothered). Drain well. Keep the cooking water in the pan. Peel and slice the garlic and chop the chilli. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and chilli. Fry until the garlic is just beginning to colour up. Add the purple sprouting broccoli and continue frying very gently while you cook the spaghetti. Don’t worry if the broccoli begins to disintegrate. It’ll still be yummy. Bring the broccoli water back to the boil. Add salt – Marcella Hazan recommends 1 ½ heaped tablespoons per 4 litres. Add the spaghetti, and cook until there is still a core of firmness at a strand’s centre. Drain in a colander or lift out with tongs and add to the pan with the broccoli, garlic and chilli. Raise the heat to boil off any excess water, and flip over the contents until all the elements are well mixed. Eat with a good grating of Parmesan cheese on top.

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