With a few store-cupboard ingredients, this tasty Pancetta and Broccoli Pasta dish will come together in under 30 minutes. Perfect for a speedy mid-week meal.
Total Time Investment: 25 Minutes
The broccoli harvest is tailing off now, but at its height I was putting broccoli in almost every meal. One week I discovered a new broccoli pasta recipe, and slotted it into that week’s meal plan. However, when it came time to cook dinner I realised that the recipe in question required me to sweat onions, steam broccoli, cook pasta and then fry off pancetta and bread – each in a separate pan.
Now, while it may work very well for a recipe developer who probably has someone washing up for them to use four pans for a recipe, the strategy in my own kitchen is to use as few dishes as possible. Combine that with the realisation I had forgotten to bake bread for the croutons, and I was faced with either making major substitutions, or cooking something completely different. I went with something completely different.
When I first taught myself to cook, I would purchase all of the listed ingredients in a recipe, and slavishly follow every step. This strategy led to a lot of opened jars and bottles that I had no further use for and a sink full of dishes. Nowadays my preference is to keep a few store-cupboard staples, like pasta, Parmesan cheese, sour cream and some form of cured meat, on hand. My current approach ensures that when dinner plans go pear shaped I can still pull together a meal, such as this easy pasta dish.
The sauce for this Pancetta and Broccoli Pasta comes together in the time it takes to boil the pasta. And by dropping the broccoli into the pasta pot in the final minutes of the cooking time you can avoid dirtying another pan to steam the broccoli. Win!
Whilst it didn’t occur to me at the time, I later realised that this dish is really just a riff on my Zucchini & Pancetta Pasta. The zucchini version is on high rotation in summer when the zucchini harvest is booming, so I was very happy to discover a new family-approved way to use up next year’s broccoli harvest. And I only have two pans to wash.
Bacon can readily be used in place of the pancetta, and is a substitution I have readily made myself when I have no pancetta on hand. Wood smoked bacon would be delicious.
The pancetta can be omitted to make a very simple vegetarian dish. If you wish to do this, increase the amount of broccoli and fry the garlic in a good dollop of butter.
I have used broccolini florets in place of the broccoli head before. They require less chopping.
Grated Pecorino cheese can be used in place of the Parmesan.
Use gluten free pasta to make this dish gluten free.
Tips for the best Pancetta & Broccoli Pasta
The rendered fat from the pancetta is key to flavouring this pasta. Don’t try to hurry this process. I start to cook the pancetta before I put the pasta water on to boil to ensure the fat has enough time to melt out of the pancetta. Whilst it looks like a lot of fat, I urge you to resist the urge to discard it. You will thank me if you do.
Pancetta and Broccoli Pasta
- 150 g (5 oz) pancetta chopped into 4mm lardons
- 500 g (18 oz) dried pasta
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 red chilli chopped
- 1 head (4 cups) broccoli cut into small florets
- 100 g (1 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt & pepper
Place the pancetta in a frying pan over a medium - low heat. Cook slowly for approximately 10 - 12 minutes until the lardons are crispy and the fat has rendered out of the pancetta.
If the pancetta is cooked before you add the broccoli to the pasta, remove the fry pan from the heat and continue with the recipe once the broccoli is added to the pasta pot.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
When the pasta is almost ready, add the broccoli to the pasta water.
Add the garlic and chilli to the pancetta and cook for one minute.
Drain the pasta and broccoli, reserving a cup of cooking water.
Tip the pasta and broccoli into the fry pan with the pancetta.
Scatter a large handful of Parmesan over the pasta, season with black pepper, then toss thoroughly to mix the pancetta through the pasta.
Add a little of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry.
Serve immediately with the remainder of the Parmesan