My mother loved to make this dish of penne pasta tossed with broccoli, garlic, crushed red pepper and olive oil topped with pecorino Romano cheese. She got the recipe from my sister Anna and she made it Mama style. It is versatile and my mother often made it using her electric skillet to prepare the sauce. At one point my mom was confined to a wheel chair and unable to access the stove very easily so using the electric skillet worked perfectly. My dad would prepare the penne and the broccoli on the stove. One of my favorite pictures with my mom was just before we were about to sit down to her broccoli con penne. She had made it for me and my cousin Kathy about six months before she was called home to the Lord. In the picture we are both looking forward smiling for we knew the feast we were about to have and the joy we had in being together and preparing it together. On the table in front of her, but out of the camera’s eye was the skillet sizzling with the olive oil, garlic and broccoli the aroma filling the house. It is one of the last meals my mom prepared for me so it is very special and dear to my heart. My sister Anna makes this dish the best. I know that every time I or one of my siblings makes this dish mommy is smiling down on us. My mothers recipe is very simple and goes like this - Sauté oil with garlic cloves and crushed red pepper, add broccoli florets (fresh or frozen), cook pasta al’dente (any kind of pasta will do, penne is preferred), mix oil/garlic with pasta, toss and top with Romano cheese. Although we all seem to add our own twist to her dish (I like to add chopped plum tomatoes and sliced red onions) nothing compares to Mamma’s broccoli con penne.
Cook a package of penne pasta in salted boiled water until cooked al dente.
Cook all ingredients for the sauce above in oil until tender and done. At the last minute add 6-8 basil leaves cut up into pieces. Drain the penne and then add the sauce to the penne and toss well. Add grated pecorino romano cheese to your liking. Our family loves lots and lots of cheese on top.
Like with my dad’s recipes, my mother never measured but the measurements listed above should be a good guide to use when making this dish. I do not recall my mom adding the basil, but my sister Anna does and it delicious!! I like to add red pepper and use red onion as opposed to white and rather than cook all the ingredients at once I start by sautéing the red onion and several chopped plum tomatoes in the olive oil with the garlic and the red pepper. When the onions are tender I add the broccoli and if necessary more olive oil as the onions, tomatoes and broccoli will absorb some of the oil. Then I will cook the pasta (I use all kinds, fafalla (bow tie) pasta also goes good with this dish) and then add to the dish and of course top with a generous layer of pecorino Romano and as mama used to say “manga” (eat!!).