Spicy, garlicky pasta with broccolini (dairy- and gluten-free versions included!)

When I’m staring down dinner time on a Friday afternoon and I want to throw something delicious together that will go great with a nice cold glass of white wine (and won’t make too many dishes), I make this. It’s like the love child of my two favorite pasta recipes (one from Smitten Kitchen and one from 101 Cookbooks). It’s quick, flexible and sure to satisfy.

There is one fancy ingredient you need to have on hand: harissa. It’s moroccan spice paste, super hot. Once you have some, it lasts forever. You can mix it with yogurt for a dipping sauce and serve it with meat. It’s great stuff. You can get it in a tube at New Sagaya City Market, or in a jar at most Fred Meyer locations.  Here is my attractive tube:


So first thing, put on a big pot of water, well salted. (If you are gluten-free, I recommend using Barilla GF pasta, which is at most grocery stores now. I got mine in a 6-pack at Costco.)

While the water is heating up, make your sauce out of well-minced garlic (you decide how much. I go with four cloves per pound of pasta), sea salt, harissa and olive oil. All harissa brands are different, so if this is your first time using it, taste it and be really conservative.


Chop up your broccolini into bite-sized pieces. You can use other leafy, cruciferous vegetables instead, too, depending on what you have on hand. I happened to find rapini. Broccoli rabe is awesome if you can find it. Just plain broccoli works. Or kale. (Though that’s kind of 2013. ;)) Or even finely chopped brussels sprouts. Costco in Anchorage pretty consistently sells organic broccolini. The rapini came from Sagaya. Here it is, upside down:


Now you’ll also want to ready some kind of salty, briny goodness. I usually use either good olives or, in a pinch, capers. This time I went with kalamatas. Green pitted olives in brine are great, too.


Now comes the math part, which, depending on the type of pasta and the type of vegetable you’re using, requires some finesse. You’ll want to pay attention to the pasta’s cooking time, (I set a timer because it’s really easy to mess up gluten free pasta) put in the pasta and then put in vegetables a little later so they cook, but don’t overcook. Generally about 5 minutes in the hot water will work for broccolini, rapini and broccoli rabe.


Now drain it when the timer goes off. Leave it in the strainer. Pour the sauce into the hot pan, put it back on the hot burner, stir it and let it heat for about two minutes. Then throw the pasta in, toss in the olives and taste it. Add more salt if necessary.

And, DONE. Go have a glass of wine now. Serve with grated parmesan and a big slice of lemon. The lemon is key. DO NOT SKIMP ON LEMON. (Sometimes, if I don’t have parm, I throw in half a cup of GF breadcrumbs right at the end. You can also sprinkle on some toasted pine nuts or pepitas, too, if you want.)

Spicy garlic pasta with broccolini

— 1 pound pasta or GF pasta (I prefer Barilla)

— 1 pound broccolini, rapini, or broccoli rabe, cut into bite-sized pieces with the really thick stems removed or thinly sliced.

— 1/2 cup of olive oil

— 3 to 5 cloves garlic, depending on your preference, peeled, super finely minced

— 1/2 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons harissa, depending on your preference

— 1/2 cup kalamata olives

— 1 teaspoon sea salt

— Lemon slices (LEMON IS KEY!)

— Parmesan to garnish (For a dairy-free version, replace parm with 1/2 cup bread crumbs, added directly to the pot.)

Put a big pan of salted water to boil. Chop broccolini. In a small bowl, mix harissa, salt, garlic and olive oil. When the water is ready, pour in the pasta and set a timer. About five minutes before the pasta should be done, put in the broccolini. When the timer rings, drain the pasta. Put the empty pot back on the stove and pour the in sauce and olives. Heat one or two minutes, add the pasta and stir to combine.

Serve with a big slice of lemon and parmesan. If you like, sprinkle on some toasted pine nuts or pepitas.