Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dinner Failure: Meat Lite: Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli, and Ham

I've been contemplating making a number of dishes from Tara Mataraza Desmond's Meat Lite posts at Serious Eats, which she has parlayed into a forthcoming cookbook: Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet. This is partly due to Michael Pollan's mantra from In Defense of Food, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Other journalists are picking up on the less meat message, as noted by Serious Eats. Audubon Magazine recently published an article on reducing meat consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. News picked up on that article too.

So in the spirit of reduced carbon footprint, grocery bill, and waistband, I took her recipe for Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli and Ham for a test drive. The verdict: we weren't even to the title sequence in our mealtime episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when David got up to microwave some Trader Joe's tomato sauce. It was way too dry and tasteless. So I modified the recipe taking inspiration from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta version of Olive Oil and Garlic Sauce. Verdict: AWESOME! Follow the link to see my hybrid recipe.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli and Ham
adapted from Tara Mataraza Desmond's recipe and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta


1 pound spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
1 tablespoon + 1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 cups sliced broccoli florets and stems (about 1/4 pound)
4 ounces sliced spiral ham, cut into 1/4-inch squares (or Canadian bacon if you don't have any leftover ham, but this is really a recipe designed to use up your leftover ham)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh flat parsley, chopped
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente. While the pasta cooks, prepare the rest of the recipe. (Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before straining.)

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan (at least 10 inches), over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant and starting to soften, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer the liquid to reduce by a little more than half.

3. Add the 1/4 cup of water and the broccoli pieces. Cover the pan and let the broccoli cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is fork tender.

4. Add the ham, salt, pepper, parsley, and remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and toss to combine.

5. Strain the pasta and immediately add it and the reserved pasta water to the sauté pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and toss the pasta with the contents of the saute pan. Simmer for 30 second or so, just until the liquid reduces and thickens a little bit.

6. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Tara Mataraza Desmond said...

Hi, Sarah. Sorry to read about your "dinner" failure, with the Meat Lite recipe. My results were delicious. Garlic, white wine and pasta water, with plenty of Parmigiano has always been a classic standby. Sometimes technique gets lost in translation, but I'm sorry it didn't work on your end! Thanks for reading Meat Lite and considering the recipes. M. Pollan's work is certainly a driver of our book, too. Hope you'll stop by for another try.