Time for another episode of Chopped, the home version. I had a lazy day and hadn’t planned dinner so I thought I’d take my chances, open the fridge and see what jumped out at me. There were a few things that had almost grown legs to really jump out at me, so those furry little beasts were routed into the trashcan. Dinner would be what remained edible.
First up, a huge bunch of fresh broccoli. My P.S. had brought it home when I said I wanted to make a roasted broccoli risotto. He’d declined to make it one night, so it was looking to jump into another dish. Also up was a package of pepperoni that was half used for an appetizer at a party awhile ago and needed to get used. I use pepperoni so rarely I’m not sure if it even gets fuzzy. But it looked and smelled fine.
Bacon, always a winner. I had about 6 strips of thick cut bacon that I wanted to use before it got old. Finishing off bacon was not going to be a problem. I needed one more ingredient to tie them all together, and I moved to the pasta cupboard for ideas. This is the cupboard that is over my head and I need the stool to reach in there very far. No problem, my P.S. had recently purchased a bag of dried, organic trottole. It’s a spiral of pasta that is larger than most, and looked fun to use. We had our ingredients!
I started by tossing the broccoli with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the spreading it out in an ovenproof dish. I sprinkled it with a little salt and put it in a 400°F oven for about 40 minutes. I wanted to see if roasting the broccoli provided a flavor superior to simply blanching it.
I put my pasta into boiling salted water to cook, following the directions on the bag. I undercooked it a little more, wanting it very al dente so it would soak up the sauce I would be making. That’s always the secret to a good pasta- tossing it with the sauce in the pan so they meld well.
I sautéed the bacon and some chopped onion in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until it was browned.
I added several cups of shredded cabbage and let it cook for 2 or 3 more minutes. I poured the bacon mixture into a dish and set it side.
Using the remaining bacon drippings, I melted some butter into the skillet along with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. I made a roux with several tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly. When my roux was bubbling and thick, I added milk ½ cup at a time, about 2 cups total, make sure it was smooth after each addition.
Next I added 2 cups of Parmesan cheese, stirring until the sauce was smooth and melted.
My broccoli was done, and I shut off the oven and let it set until I was ready for it. By then my trottole was done and drained, reserving several cups of pasta water in case I needed to add more liquid to the pasta later.
I stirred the pasta into the skillet, coating it thoroughly. I had to be careful as a few of the trottole was unwinding in an ungraceful way! They were still very al dente, I’m not sure why some were being ornery.
Next I stirred in the reserved bacon and onions, and the roasted broccoli. I made sure it was all coated, then added about a cup of pasta water as the pasta absorbed the sauce and made it a little dry. Perfect, it was creamy and ready.
Or not. I’d forgotten the pepperoni! I quickly sliced it into thin strips and sprinkled it in the skillet, then mixed it into the pasta. Now we were ready for our meal. I plated it and we tasted. Wow, very good! Bacon and pepperoni are a neat mixture of flavors; the broccoli was great roasted, and the cheesy goodness of Parmesan tied it all together. The trottole pasta was still nicely al dente, and gave the pasta dish a good texture. I vote I wouldn’t have been chopped!
Actually, I probably would have advanced to the next round but I’d failed to make a dessert. I rarely think of desserts but my P.S. has an incurable sweet tooth. He would have chopped me without blinking, with no dessert in sight. Meanie.
Pepperoni, Bacon, Broccoli Pasta
4 cups broccoli florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces pasta, cooked al dente following package directions, reserving pasta water
6 strips thick sliced bacon
1/2 cup onion; chopped
2 cups cabbage; thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups parmesan; shredded
3 ounces sliced pepperoni, cut in thin strips
Toss broccoli with olive oil and salt, roast in oven at 400°F for 30 minutes. Shut off oven and keep warm.
Dice up bacon and saute in large nonstick skillet on medium high until fairly browned.
Add onions and saute another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add cabbage and saute 3-4 more minutes, until cabbage begins to look wilted. Set aside ingredients in a bowl and return skillet to burner.
Prepare pasta. When al dente, drain, reserving several cups of pasta water.
Melt butter; stir in flower and cook 3-4 minutes to remove raw flavor. Add seasonings.
Slowly add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly until all milk is added and sauce thickens.
Add parmesan and cook until melted.
Toss pasta into skillet and stir to coat. Add more pasta water if it gets dry. I added about another cup of water to mine.
Return veggies and bacon to pan, along with broccoli. Stir well.
Add pepperoni and stir.
Approx 4 generous servings