Every time I talk to my sister, we spend at least half the conversation on food. “What are you having for lunch today?” “What did you put in your fried rice?” “What should I get on my pizza?” “Why am I always hungry?”
Not only are we just 14 months apart in age, we also have incredibly similar palates and food philosophies.
Here’s a little taste:
We both require starch at every meal to feel satisfied. (Read: salad with no bread is not a meal.)
We feel compelled to eat a fresh fruit or vegetable at every meal. (Well done, Mom.)
We eat omelets for dinner at least once a week.
We can’t eat smoked salmon when we’re hungover…but we can always eat oysters.
We will almost always take savory over sweet (especially if that savory item is pickled, cured or made of cheese).
That said, this pasta dish is dedicated to Mad. It satisfies several of our requirements for a perfect dish, per the descriptions above. Plus, no one–and I mean no one–loves blue cheese as much as my sister.
Smoked blue pasta is very simple to make. The key is to give each ingredient a little extra love to get the most out of it: roasting the broccoli florets till just singed; toasting the walnuts; and most importantly, tossing in a few ounces of blue gold, aka smoked blue cheese. If you haven’t tried it, it is heavenly stuff–albeit pretty expensive. Luckily, you don’t need much to reap its funky, smoky benefits. The moment the cheese hits the hot pasta, it starts to melt and mingle with the starchy pasta water to create a lovely, thick sauce.
Smoked blue pasta with broccoli and walnuts
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
2 ounces walnuts, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
Zest of 1/2 lemon
5 ounces smoked blue cheese, crumbled into small pieces
Method: Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the broccoli into bite-size florets (and the stem portion into about 1/2-inch cubes). Arrange the broccoli pieces in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
Roast the broccoli for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp-tender and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Cook the pasta in generously salted water (it should taste as salty as seawater), just until al dente.
Meanwhile, toast the chopped walnuts in a large pot over medium-low heat until they become fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the same pot, along with the shallots and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute for 4 or 5 minutes until they soften and start to caramelize. Add the roasted broccoli and toss for about a minute. Turn the heat off, and stir in the walnuts and lemon zest.
Turn the heat back on low, and add the al dente pasta, about 1/4 cup of starchy cooking liquid and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle in the blue cheese and toss everything together with tongs until combined and the cheese starts to melt. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed with salt and pepper. Heap the pasta into deep bowls, grind a little pepper over the top and serve immediately.