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Aspirational Broccolini Pasta

Sometimes I like to go to the farmers market and buy something I haven’t cooked with before, that I can’t even identify, whose origins are unknown to me. I’ll go home, Google it, get familiar with its ancestry and quirks, and figure out a recipe for it.

On a recent such outing I brought home broccolini. When I Googled it, I got more information than I would have if I’d typed in “Civil War.” I started reading, but found myself nodding off. Maybe it’s just me, but I find the details of the life of a cruciferous vegetable less gripping than those of, say, the battle of Bull Run.

But one fact that caught my attention before my Wikipedia-induced nap was that broccolini is sometimes known as “Asparation,” suggesting (to me anyway) that the poor vegetable aspires to be asparagus. I imagined the broccolini lying awake at night, wishing to be as desirable as his spear-shaped associate. Instead, he’s regularly mistaken for young broccoli (when actually he’s a cross between Chinese broccoli and the regular boring variety). Who wants to bee taken for the baby brother of George Bush’s least favorite food? No wonder he’s depressed.

While broccolini considers therapy, I thought I’d invent a dish that would put the vegetable to his best advantage, elevate it to a higher level, up there with the more respected members of the produce department. Try this pasta dish and I promise you, you won’t be aspiring for asparagus.

Broccolini Pasta

2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves arlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half and half
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup freshly chopped dill
¾ pound spaghetti or linguini
1 bunch broccolini, about 10-12 ounces, cut into two-inch pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the chicken broth, half and half, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until it is reduced and thickened, about ten minutes. Stir in the dill and set the sauce aside.

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente (tender), about ten minutes. In the last four minutes of cooking, add the broccolini. Drain the pasta and broccolini and return it to the pot. Add the sauce, tomatoes and ½ cup of the cheese and mix well. Serve hot with the extra cheese on the side.

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