April 10, 2014
Why “Smothered” Broccoli Tastes Best
I’m here to make a case for mushy broccoli. Yes, mushy. While most of us have been taught to cook broccoli quickly so it’s bright green and al dente, there is an Italian method for braising it low and slow to the point where it falls apart at the mere suggestion of a fork. It’s called stufati, and it is the most delicious preparation of broccoli imaginable.
Stufati translates to “stewed” or “smothered”, and while broccoli cooked in this manner is not as pretty as a verdant stir-fry, it develops such a deep, earthy flavour over the long cooking time that you’ll never crave another crunchy floret again. It’s excellent served hot off the stove or at room temperature, and if you’re lucky enough to have any leftovers, they are terrific on garlic-rubbed toasts (aka crostini) the next day.
This recipe is adapted from my tattered copy of More Classic Italian Cooking, published in 1978, by the late, great Marcella Hazan. Mrs. Hazan, who passed away last year, has mentored me through her cookbooks since the early ’90s, and I continue to be inspired by her delicious recipes and unwavering integrity. She is known as the Julia Child of Italian cuisine for good reason.
Broccoli Stufati with Red Wine & Pecorino
1 large bunch broccoli
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano to taste
Step 1: Cut the broccoli into large florets. Peel the stems. Slice the stems ¼” thick. Set aside.
Step 2: Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned and softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and anchovies. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Make an even bed of broccoli stems and florets on top of onions. Pour in wine. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover. When mixture is simmering, reduce heat to low. Cook, without stirring, 45 minutes.
Step 3: Remove lid. Raise heat to medium-low. Cook, without stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with cheese. Serves 4.