A meatless dinner party, you say? In a panic, I start emptying my crisper. And I don’t know how it happened but the results exceeded expectations, pleasing, nay tricking, even my meatiest diners. I stayed in my comfort zone–pasta–and fresh fettuccine at that, so it would have been good with butter and cheese, but I wanted something surprising: A dried tomato and broccoli sauce.
Begin by soaking some dried tomatoes–mine were from a friend’s garden–in olive oil with red pepper flakes. Put that mixture in a food processor along with a handful of fresh basil and several cloves of garlic and chop. Cook the heck out of it–maybe 15 minutes–in a pan on medium heat along with a small can of tomato paste. Add water and red wine if it ever looks like it’s going to burn. Back in the food processor, chop half a large head of broccoli and add that to the pan. Chop the rest of the broccoli with a knife and add that as well along with some vegetable stock and more wine. After the broccoli has cooked through, about 10 minutes, add your nearly cooked pasta and some of the salty cooking water. Once the pasta is cooked and coated and the sauce is melded, take it off the heat and stir in a little cream and a chopped salty cheese like ricotta salata.
As hard as it is to believe it, the broccoli through the food processor and the chunks of cheese give this dish a texture that mimics a meat sauce, and the long-cooked tomato paste adds a deep meaty flavor. I could see making this again. Though one taster did ask that I do it with a little sausage next time. So it goes.