Move over, steamed broccoli; here comes your exciting Italian cousin.
Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino is an Italian pasta preparation that translates to “Garlic, Oil, and Chili” in English. It’s a simple and classic recipe that features spaghetti or other types of pasta tossed with a sauce made from garlic, olive oil, and red chili flakes. The dish is known for its bold and flavorful combination, with the garlic and chili providing a spicy kick to the pasta.
Here I’ve taken all the delicious flavors and the ease of preparation of algio e olio but applied it to broccolini. Why? Because broccolini (a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli that tastes milder and sweeter than broccoli), are infinitely more filling, delicious (to me, anyway), bright-green-beautiful, and even faster-cooking than pasta. Bonus: you only have one pan to wash, not two.
Moreover, being a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccolini offers some major health benefits:
- Rich in Nutrients: Broccolini is a good source of essential nutrients, including vitamins C and K. Vitamin C is important for immune function and skin health, while vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting and bone health.
- Antioxidant Properties: It contains antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Antioxidants help protect cells from oxidative stress and may contribute to reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
- Fiber Content: Broccolini is a good source of dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. Adequate fiber intake can help regulate bowel movements and support a healthy gut.
- Cancer-Fighting Compounds: Like broccoli, broccolini contains sulforaphane, a compound with potential anti-cancer properties. Sulforaphane has been studied for its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and support detoxification processes in the body.
- Heart Health: The fiber, potassium, and antioxidants in broccolini may contribute to heart health. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels, potassium supports blood pressure regulation, and antioxidants may reduce inflammation.
There’s a lot to like here.
Pasta aglio e olio typically involves sautéing minced garlic and red chili flakes in olive oil until the garlic becomes golden brown and aromatic. This flavorful oil is then tossed with cooked pasta, coating it evenly. Some variations may include additional ingredients like parsley, grated cheese, or anchovies, but the basic recipe revolves around the trio of garlic, oil, and chili. It’s a quick and easy dish showcasing Italian cuisine’s simplicity and deliciousness.
Here, we do much the same thing: we saute thinly sliced garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil over low heat until the garlic turns golden brown. We remove the garlic and steam-fry the broccolini in the fragrant olive oil, and once the cooking liquid has evaporated, we drizzle it with a squeeze of lemon juice, scatter it with the crispy garlic slices, and serve it alongside our chosen protein.
Last week, I added some fresh ginger to this recipe and served it alongside a delicious Vietnamese beef stew from Amy & Jacky’s wonderful pressure-cooking website. The week before, I paired it with a Scandinavian-inspired roasted side of salmon. Last night I served it with roast chicken. The possibilities are endless.
I often make a double batch of broccolini and store it in the fridge, to be reheated a day or two later alongside a different meal (or even with my breakfast eggs). The garlic won’t be crisp, but its flavors will have melded beautifully with the rest of the dish.
Broccolini Aglio, Olio e Peperoncioni
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 8 cloves fresh garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2-3 anchovy fillets optional; canned, in olive oil; coarsely chopped.
- 10 oz broccolini rinsed under tap water; bottom ½-inch of the stems trimmed. Some supermarkets sell it in bags, others place it in their fresh-vegetable section
- a generous pinch salt go easy on salt if using anchovies and/or Parmesan as these are both quite salty; if not, add about ⅓ tsp salt
- a few twists of the black pepper mill
- ½ cup chicken broth or vegetable broth or water
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- a few lemon slices as garnish
- -3 tbsp Parmesan freshly grated
- Warm a 9-inch skillet over low heat and add the olive oil until it shimmers.
- Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes (and chopped anchovy, if using) and saute until the garlic is golden and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and most of the pepper flakes and anchovies to a plate and set aside.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and let the pan heat for 1 minute. Place the washed broccolini in the skillet -- it will spit and hiss, so step back! Let the broccolini cook. for about a minute without turning them, then use kitchen tongs to turn them over. Some of the flowers and stems will have browned slightly -- that's intentional as it adds a delicious toasty flavor.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pour the chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water) over the vegetables. Cover with a lid and cook on medium-low for 4-5 minutes. To test for doneness, pierce the thickest part of the fattest stem with a paring knife or fork; if it goes in relatively easily, they're done. (We're aiming for a slightly al dente crunch, rather than buttery softness.)
- Once the broccolini are done, sprinkle with lemon juice. Transfer to a serving dish (or leave in the skillet to keep warm) and sprinkle with the crispy garlic slices you had set aside. Scatter with Parmesan, if desired, and serve immediately.
- In a tightly sealed container, these keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and can easily be reheated in the microwave.