Slow-Cooked Broccoli Pasta with Crunchy Lemon Breadcrumbs

Some variation of pasta with broccoli is usually our fall-back meal. You know, the meal you make when you a) are missing an ingredient for the meal you had planned to make, b) you are tired after a long day of work, or c) don't feel like cooking and it's this or calling the neighborhood pizza place. I am a creature of habit and could eat the same thing every day, but Justin likes a little variety.

When I saw this recipe, I was intrigued by slow-cooking the broccoli, as well as putting breadcrumbs on pasta. I didn't think I would like the crunchiness on top, but it is now my new favorite pasta topper. The rough texture and crunchiness is the perfect compliment to the soft pasta. While this isn't exactly in the "just as fast as ordering pizza" category, it's just as easy and you won't feel guilty for having dessert afterwards!

Slow-Cooked Broccoli Pasta with Crunchy Lemon Breadcrumbs

1 1/2 lbs broccoli
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2-3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups fresh, roughly textured breadcrumbs (made from stale bread)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small pasta (I used penne)

Break down your broccoli as follows: cut the thick stems from the florets, peel and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Break the florets into pieces. If the garlic cloves are small (the size of an almond) leave them whole. Cut larger cloves into halves or quarters.

Pour 1/3 cup of olive oil into a large stock pot or dutch oven. Add the broccoli, garlic and a pinch of salt. Add about 2 or 3 Tbsp. of water and put on the lid. Place over a medium low flame and cook until you can hear the liquids starting to simmer (about 10 minutes.) (It's fine to peek in the pot to see how things are going.) Turn the flame down as low as possible and continue cooking until the broccoli is limp and completely soft, about another hour. Turn off the heat but keep the lid on your pot.

In a large frying pan, heat up the oil and butter and add the breadcrumbs (and optional red pepper flakes) and sauté until the crumbs begin to brown. Add a small pinch of the salt and turn off the heat. Using a microplane or a fine grater, carefully grate just the peel from the lemon and toss in with the crumbs.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package direction until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Remove the broccoli from the pan with tongs until the only thing left in the pot are the cooking liquid and the garlic cloves (which will be quite soft.) Smash the cloves against the sides of the pot and mix them into the liquid and pour it over the broccoli. Toss the pasta, the broccoli and juices together and sprinkle on the breadcrumbs.

Source: adapted from the kitchn