A little over a year ago, I ate at a swanky restaurant downtown called Seven. The dish that jumped out at me, orecchiette with broccoli rabe and cannellini beans, was delicious— simple and elegant Tuscan ingredients kissed with garlic and olive oil. Just a couple months later, I found a strikingly similar recipe in EatingWell magazine. I replaced the broccoli rabe with regular broccoli and omitted the cheese, but changed little else. The result is a light and lovely restaurant-quality meal at home. The breadcrumb topping is optional, but I highly recommend including it; the delightful crunch is a great foil to the creamy beans.
For the pasta:
8 oz. whole wheat shells, orecchiette, or chiocciole
1 bunch broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1T all-purpose flour
2T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can navy/cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2T red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
For the breadcrumbs:
2 slices whole wheat bread, crusts trimmed
1T olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Tear the bread into pieces and pulse in a food processor into coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, toss the crumbs with the olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Cook and stir the crumbs in a skillet over medium heat until golden and crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes, then set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the broccoli during the last 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the mixture, and dry out the pot. Look at that beautiful bright green broccoli!
Whisk the broth and flour in a small bowl until smooth. Heat the oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth mixture and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, until it thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the beans, vinegar, salt, and pepper…
…then add the pasta and broccoli. Cook and stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated and the mixture is heated through, about 1 minute. I love the way the beans nestle into the shells.
Remove from the heat, top with the toasted breadcrumbs, and serve immediately. I like to dust on a little nutritional yeast too, and feel free to drizzle on some extra olive oil as well. You can change up the main vegetable if you want (I bet this would be great with asparagus), or add extra veggies (like an onion or a couple shallots). For me, this pasta provides a warm and welcome segway into spring.
Yield: 4 servings. Per serving: 442 calories, 11.5g fat (1.6g sat), 72.2g carbs, 14g fiber, 19.3g protein.