Pasta With Broccoli, Cheese & a Little Pig

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This dish came together with ingredients I had “on hand” in my fridge. A free-styling kind of a dish that can either bear success in the kitchen or a meal for the dog. The first rule is ensure that anything you’re cooking with is still edible and not more suited for the compost bin. Second, take a look in your pantry and see if there’s a spice or seasoning you haven’t used in awhile. You may surprise yourself with a new flavour combination. The wildcard ingredient here was the smoked pork loin I had in my fridge and although this dish would be wonderful as a vegetarian meal – the smoky pork when diced simply licks all the other ingredients in the mix and I couldn’t resist!

Try and pick ingredients that grow together or are in season in your part of the world. In this particular dish, I was looking for something that would be healthy, a little decadent and filling at the same time. Pasta always satisfies but no meat you say? Big rigatoni pasta has a texture that will make you feel like you’re biting into a big meal, the vegetables are distinct in flavour yet one doesn’t dominate one over the other. Broccoli always gets pushed to the sidelines as a side dish but here, it shines with it’s Autumn partner in sweet red peppers.

I’m using two Greek cheese here, unmistakable and often imitated Greek Feta cheese. Have you tried Feta made in Greece? Look for the Greek flag on the tub or ask your grocer/deli for Greek Feta. It should be made of sheep or goat\s milk or a combo of the two. Never of cow’s milk. The second cheese here is a Graviera cheese – the Greek Gruyere as it’s often referred to because of the big holes in it like a Swiss cheese. The Graviera melts nicely, getting stuck to the ridges and inside the tubular pasta and the Feta ever so slightly melts offering random tart bites.

Pasta With Broccoli, Feta & Graviera

(serves 4)

500 gr. pkge of rigatoni or penne rigate

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive

1 head of broccoli, trimmed and separated into florets

1 large onion, slice (approx 1 1/2 cups)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bell pepper, sliced

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. Boukovo (chilli flakes)

1 cup of diced Graviera cheese (or Gruyere)

1 cup diced smoked pork (or speck, pancetta, ham)

1 cup of coarsely crumbled Feta cheese

reserved pasta water

extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

sweet paprika for garnish

  1. Rinse your broccoli and cut-off the darkened black end of the stem and separate the head into florets. Place the florets in a skillet with a cup of water and cover. Steam over medium-high heat for 6 minutes then drain and set aside. Once cooled cut each floret in half and reserve.
  2. Place a large pot of water on your stovetop and once it comes to a boil, add a good amount of salt and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Now place the same skillet you used to steam the broccoli on your stovetop and add the olive oil over medium heat along with the onions, garlic and sliced peppers with some salt and pepper and sweat for 5 minutes. Now add the broccoli, pork and thyme, season with some more salt and boukovo/chilli flakes to taste and cook for another minute. Pre-heat your oven to 425F
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer into the skillet along the diced Graviera cheese and a ladel of pasta water. Toss to incorporate the pasta with the vegetables and cheese and once you see the cheese begin to melt, transfer to a shallow baking dish. Top with crumbled Feta cheese and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and place in your pre-heated oven on the upper-middle rack for 6-8 minutes or until Feta has melted.
  4. Take out of the oven and sprinkle with sweet paprika and divide and serve with a Domaine Papayianni White made of Chardonnay & Malagouzia.


© 2011,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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8 Comments for “Pasta With Broccoli, Cheese & a Little Pig”


love random pasta with what you have floating around in the kitchen. I only wish I had access to delicious Greek cheeses that you have. I mean we have them at Whole Foods and stuff but it’s not the same as a Greek grocery store. Anyway, glad you’re bringing broccoli into the mains, and I still need to visit you in TO.


Got to say, the ‘little pig’ does that meal for me! :) Think we’re going to treat ourselves over Christmas to a bit of pork. We have shop near us that’s getting it from Istanbul. Expensive but worth it for a little treat.


Love a good pasta dish – the ultimate in comfort food, and even better when you get creative with what’s left in the fridge.

Mixing some Feta with Graviera too – a nice touch!