This is a recipe straight from Italy that I learned while living in Milan last summer. The original recipe uses orecchiette, a kind of pasta that gets its name from its shape, like “little ears”. Tonight, though, I was craving gnocchi, so I tried that instead and it was almost as good. These two kinds of pasta work well because they go nicely with the mushy consistency of the sauce.
The picture shows the dish made with bacon, but I’ve also made it with thickly cut and cubed maple turkey breast (ask for about 3-1cm thick slices at the deli), pancetta, or no meat at all. All are excellent, depending on your tastes.
A bunch of broccoli (2 crowns)
1 kg of gnocchi or 500g of orecchiette
1/2 to 3/4 of a pack of bacon (or the turkey, or 10 or so slices of pancetta, or nothing)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of chili flakes or powder (optional)
salt and pepper
If you’re using bacon, I suggest baking it. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on it. Lay the strips of bacon on the rack, trying not to overlap. Bake for about 20 minutes, then break into pieces once it’s crispy. If you’re using pancetta or turkey breast, pan-fry it to brown it.
While the bacon is cooking, cut up the broccoli (big pieces are alright). Bring a large pot of water to a boil (use a lot of water as it will be boiling for a long time). Boil the broccoli until it is very soft and falling apart, then salt the water lightly and add the pasta to the same pot. Gnocchi takes less time than orecchiette, so if you are using orecchiette you can add it a bit earlier in the cooking process but the broccoli should be very soft first.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain the whole works (broccoli and all). Put the broccoli and pasta back in the pot and stir in the olive oil, bacon and chili flakes (or powder). Add as much salt and pepper as you like. Buon appetito!