Once you have your pasta water at a boil and your broccoli cut into florets, this dish—a perfect weekday quick comfort meal—takes no time at all to prepare. The star here is the crispy broccoli. You create that crispness by allowing your pan and oil to get a lot hotter than you normally would—to the point where the oil is just about smoking—and then quickly throwing in the broccoli and covering the pan. The broccoli sears around the edges, caramelizes, and develops a real depth of flavor.
The capellini—or angel hair pasta—cooks in 3 minutes so don’t put it in the boiling water until the broccoli/broth part of the recipe is ready. (If you make the pasta wait for the sauce, it will start clumping up.)
Finally, here’s a handy tip on how to grate your Parmigiano-Reggiano without scraping your knuckles raw just cut it into chunks, toss it into the food processor, and let the blades grate it as fine as you like.
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large head broccoli, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds, stems removed and florets trimmed into pieces 2 inches long with a stem about 1/2 inch thick (4 to 5 cups)
1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 to 2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes or to taste
1/2 pound capellini
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the broccoli and season with salt to taste. Cover and cook until just crispy and brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the cover, stir, and reduce the heat to medium high. Cover and cook until the florets are crisp but tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and pepper flakes.
Add the capellini to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the broccoli and stock. Stir in half the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 warmed soup plates and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.