BROCCOLI, PORK & PASTA
Not all pasta was mixed with tomato sauce. Nope. Pasta with peas and onions, with cauliflower, ceci beans, and one of my favorites--broccoli and pork. Whatever could be fried, sauteed, poached or baked could be combined with some type of pasta be it fusilli, shells, farfalle, penne and so on. Everything was great with pasta... well, except for that lunch in Cape Cod, Massachusetts when I was about 9 years old.
Mom and Dad took their seven children and Nonna on vacation every year. My parents wouldn't dream of a get-away alone. No two people deserved quiet time without their brood more than they...but we were family, their family. So off to Lake George, NY, the New Jersey Shore or Cape Cod we would go. Dad would rent a large house somewhere near a lake or the ocean where his kids could run wild, swim or explore. Poor Mom still had to cook as it was too expensive to take 10 out to a restaurant. At the Cape, Nonna carrying a bucket would take us to the sea and we'd all gather fresh mussels. Back at home, Mom would make a pot of marinara sauce and in would go those mussels....cook up linguine and the feast would begin.
Four little girls giggling at a chipped formica table waited for their Italian lunch. Mrs. G filled a separate bowl with the spaghetti water, then scooped out a hearty serving of pasta into each kid's dish. She reached for a bottle of ketchup and proceeded to mix it with the pasta water she'd set aside. She whisked the ketchup and water together and poured it over our pasta. Judey and I were horrified! I looked over at my younger sister. Tears pooled in her eyes. Her lip quivered. I squeezed her knee under the table. We were taught that no matter what was served...you ate it. It was bad manners to put your nose up at food. But this had to be an exception...ketchup over spaghetti? It was criminal, I tell you. We said "thank you" and we all bowed our heads to say grace. I prayed I wouldn't throw up. Judey prayed that her "big" sister would get her out of this mess. I couldn't. We ate half our lunch, said we were full and couldn't eat another bite. Judey and I quickly bid them goodbye and high-tailed it back to our rental. Mom couldn't image what had happened, the way we carried on! Ketchup in place of tomato sauce...oh, the inhumanity of it all! We had been traumatized. Mom understood, led us into the living room, snuggled us under a blanket on the couch and turned on the TV. We never spoke of the "ketchup" incident ever again.
That evening, Mom made pasta with broccoli and pork. Tomato sauce would have been a cruel reminder of what we'd been through that day.
Pasta, Broccoli & Pork
1 lb. box shells style pasta
1 large head of broccoli: remove end of stalks & cut into pieces with florets intact
1 small onion, sliced
2-3 boneless pork chops, diced *pork is not the main ingredient. This is a pasta dish. Pork is for flavor.
Seasoning & Browning sauce (i.e. Gravy Master-just for color)
salt & garlic powder
*reserve a cup or so of pasta water
Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add diced pork and begin to brown it. Season to taste with salt and garlic powder. When almost browned, add onion and saute until pork and onion are cooked. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Put broccoli in pot and cook for 5 min. Add pasta in the same pot as broccoli. Cook until al dente. With a slotted spoon, remove broccoli and add to the skillet. Mix gently. When pasta is cooked, drain, add to skillet, too. Add a bit of Gravy Master to color the pasta. Mix gently so as not to break up the broccoli too much. Add a drizzle of olive oil to moisten. Add pasta water. Mix gently. Season with salt and garlic powder to your taste, if needed. Serves 4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve with Italian bread.
Remember to Make Memories at the table.