Not too long ago, we attended our first potluck picnic of the season. This, along with the season’s inaugural bike ride downtown to picnic on the waterfront, and the breaking down of my willpower when it comes to filling my belly with fresh strawberries and lemon cream, heralds the dawn of a new eating season in our household. Summer foods are upon us.
Most summer foods can be easily spotted and categorized as such. You have fruit (strawberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines), you have picnic food (stuffed sandwiches, a simple baguette with a round of cheese to accompany it), and you have what is quite possibly the most misunderstood of summer foods, the pasta salad.
I know what you are thinking: Pasta salad is misunderstood? And my answer is yes, horribly so. Most pasta salads are improperly seasoned, unbearably bland, kept in the refrigerator until their starches seize and become unpleasantly pasty, and/or so inappropriately covered with mayonnaise that one can’t even begin to identify the flecks of vegetables that are hiding within. Which brings me to another point of contention, that being the utterly unbalanced proportion of pasta to vegetables. Look, I know it’s a pasta salad, but does that really mean that 90% of what comprises the salad really have to be just pasta?
Perhaps I am alone in my displeasure, but, were it not for my feelings of malcontent, I never would have come up with the incredibly tasty and fulfilling pasta salad to see here. In it, big chunks of broccoli get roasted in olive oil with generous slivers of garlic and a hearty pinch of red pepper flakes. The pasta, before meeting up with the roasted broccoli, is bathed in a splash of lemon juice, soaking up the brightness as it cools to a perfectly toothsome texture. A final toss with a confetti of lemon zest and a blizzard of finely grated, wonderfully sharp Pecorino Romano cheese, and it is done. And, thankfully you are done—done eating dull, limp pasta salads, and done hunting for something delicious and new to take to a potluck and be welcomed with open arms.
Last Year: How to Make Smoked Salmon at Home–this is by far the most popular post on here, and for good reason.
Roasted Broccoli Pasta Salad Recipe
1 pound broccoli florets, trimmed into equally-sized pieces with a long portion of stems intact
3 large cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1 pound pasta
¼ cup finely grated or chopped lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a large baking sheet, combine broccoli, sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and salt to taste. Toss everything together until uniformly coated in olive oil. Roast broccoli and garlic in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until both the broccoli and garlic have developed a nice layer of caramelization. Remove from oven, stir a bit, then set aside to cool slightly.
While the broccoli is roasting, cook the pasta in salted water until tender. Drain pasta in a colander, then toss with lemon juice while still hot. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to cool a bit, tossing frequently to aid in cooling and to keep the pasta from sticking together.
When both the pasta and broccoli are no longer piping hot, but still warm, pour the pasta into a large bowl. Scrape the broccoli, along with every bit of olive oil and garlic left on the baking sheet, onto the pasta. Add lemon zest and cheese, then toss thoroughly to combine. Serve at room temperature.