Pasta with Broccoli and “Mollica”



There are dishes that flood back food memories and transport you to …a time, a place, a feeling, a smell, a taste & a texture! This is one of them and still one of my favourite go-to recipes. Fast-food at its finest and ready in the time that it takes to cook the pasta of your choice.

This is a classic dish which originates from my family’s Puglia region in Southern Italy, an area renowned for its cucina povera. Literally translated, “cucina povera” means “poor kitchen” and centuries ago the cooking traditions of the region were shaped by the resourcefulness and frugal ways families were fed with whatever could be foraged from the earth during difficult and poorer times. From humble beginnings, this “cucina povera” is now acclaimed as one of the healthiest diets of the world, made up of olive oil, wild greens, pulses, egg-less hard durum wheat pasta, and now served in some of the finest restaurants around the world.

Mollica (also known in Italy as pangrattato) is one of my food memories that came to me when we did our “Vegan April” experiment and I craved some parmigiano cheese to go on my pasta. I remembered that my mother would make mollica to sprinkle over pasta in place of cheese, something that she & my father’s families would do in Southern Italy in the times when cheese may not have been affordable and stale bread was never wasted. This tradition of “pasta con la mollica” has stood the test of time and continues to be enjoyed for the flavour and texture it provides to pasta, and the enjoyment in bringing back those incredibly comforting and nostalgic “food memories”.

I hope you will give it a try! Buon appetito!

Pasta con Broccoli

(Serves 6)

1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets and stems sliced, about 500g

500g good quality durum wheat pasta (I use orecchiette, but you can use other shaped pasta such as penne)

100ml (5 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

3-4 anchovy fillets, chopped OR 1 tbsp capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped (deseeded if preferred)

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

2 tbsp basil, chopped

Salt & pepper, to taste

Freshly grated parmigiano, to serve OR Mollica dPangrattato (see recipe below)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil with 4 tbsp salt and then add pasta and cook to al dente. Five minutes before pasta is cooked, add broccoli florets to pot with pasta. Continue to cook until the pasta is to the texture that you like.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large pan or saucepan and saute the garlic, anchovy and chilli until aromatic and garlic is golden. (Use a little of the pasta water to keep pan from drying out). Keep warm until pasta and broccoli is cooked.
  3. Drain pasta & broccoli and add to pan with chilli & anchovy/caper mixture and parsley & basil. Stir through to combine.
  4. Serve sprinkled with mollica/pangrattato and/or freshly grated parmigiano.



Mollica (Pangrattato)

80g stale sourdough bread (or break into pieces and toast in 180C oven for 10 minutes)

1 garlic clove, gently flattened with a back of a knife

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp finely chopped lemon zest (OPTIONAL)

1 tbsp Italian parlsey, finely chopped (OPTIONAL)

  1. Process stale or toasted bread to fine breadcrumbs in a food processor (Thermomix : 10 sec | SP10), for about 1 cup of breadcrumbs.
  2. Heat extra virgin olive oil and garlic clove in a frypan. Add processed breadcrumbs and stir constantly over a medium high heat until they are a dark golden brown and take on a crunchy texture, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and parsley, if desired. Spread onto a plate and allow to cool.
  4. Use on top of pasta or risottos in place of (or with) parmigiano cheese.