“Oh, that’s a great question.”
I can’t begin to estimate how many times I’ve said that. It’s a transition sentence, a time-filler and something that pours from my mouth — and so many other people’s mouths too. It’s what I say whenever I need a beat to consider what the answer to a question should really be.
It’s also what I sometimes say when I am not sure what’s for dinner, or I am still uncertain what I will be making for this column. This week, I wasn’t entirely sure what I would make. Would it be a chocolate version of my favorite French toast bake to use up the leftover French bread in my kitchen? Or maybe a bread pudding? Or should I go with something more savory?
I ultimately decided on something more savory that makes a lovely lunch, and a fantastic side dish for dinner too. This pasta salad is delightful warm or cold.
Going back to that thing I often say, I can’t help but notice that it’s funny the things we say, and how they don’t always match up precisely with what we mean. In this case, with this column, I really meant that I just wasn’t sure yet. There are so many recipes I want to share, but what I do comes down to what I really feel like making.
I’ve had this dish in the back of my mind for awhile — but more as a concept than a plan. I knew it would have orecchiette pasta, with its little round, almost hat-shaped pieces. And broccoli would be part of it too. But the details — fresh roasted broccoli or frozen, what to put in the dressing, should it be hot or cold, or does that matter — were the pieces of a recipe puzzle I had to put together.
So I did.
In our fridge, there’s almost always lemons and limes, all year long. They are perfect for marinades, guacamoles and dressings — and for cocktails too, when I make them. Red onions are usually there too, and carrots.
So that became the base of this dish. Veggies, lemon and adorable pasta. I went with frozen broccoli because it’s readily available and inexpensive at this time of year. Sure, you could use fresh broccoli instead … but you’ll need to cook it a little longer.
There’s also always garlic, honey and dried oregano hanging about in the pantry. Those seasonings joined with the lemon to make a tangy vinaigrette that takes this dish from basic pasta to something greater.
One of the things I love most about this pasta salad though is how quickly it comes together. The pasta cooks in about 13 minutes, or however long the package recommends, and the broccoli cooks with it. While it’s cooking, you can chop the veggies (I use a julienne cutter on my mandoline for the carrots, which makes quick work of them) and whisk together the dressing.
All in all, I was done in about 20 minutes. If you chop slower, it might take you 30 minutes — but it’s still fast, still easy and still delicious. Enjoy.
- ½ lb orecchiette pasta
- ¾ cup frozen broccoli cuts
- ½ cup julienne cut carrots
- ¼ cup diced red onions
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is about 4 minutes away from completion, stir in the frozen broccoli and continue cooking. Drain.
- In a large bowl, combine the carrots and red onions. Add the pasta and broccoli and stir well to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour over the pasta mixture and toss well to combine.
- Enjoy hot or chilled.