broccoli | food | italian | macaroni/pasta | meals | nuts | recipe | savory | vegan | vegetables

Holy healthy penne!

April 8, 2009

I’m all about broccoli lately. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which is odd considering I went a good portion of my life hating it.

When I was a baby and a little kid, I adored broccoli. Especially broccoli with cheese… I was like a little Green Giant worshipper. Then all of a sudden, things changed. Broccoli was no longer my friend- it was my foe. For many years (lets say young adolescence until *ahem* early adulthood) I ate Smartfood White Cheddar popcorn and Totino’s Pizza Rolls as snacks and my food choices were either a hamburger or… a hamburger. Nothing green was to touch my plate. Its safe to say my diet wasn’t the best, but find me a teenager’s whose diet is great and I’ll show you a vegetarian teenager. But I’ve since gone through a transformation. When I was younger, I could eat all that crap and it didn’t effect me, I was still super skinny and fit. But the older I got, the more that changed. So recently I did something about it. I lost a lot of weight since mid-2007 (50 pounds), began exercising and, you guessed it, eating better. I realized that there are so many health problems related to being overweight, even just moderately overweight or a few pounds over what the recommended weight is for you, that I needed to make a change. At 5’9″ or 5’10” I can get away, just barely, with the extra poundage better than most, visually. But healthwise it doesn’t matter. Being heavier isn’t good for anyone. I feel better, look better and I’m sure I’m much healthier now. So my new diet consists of much less red meat (I really don’t have much of a taste for it, anymore, except for a big thick bacon cheeseburger every now and then.. and a Nathan’s hot dog), lots of salad, seafood and chicken, and my old friend- broccoli.

Broccoli is so amazingly good for you:

Broccoli is high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties including diindolylmethane and selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of Vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of Vitamin C [4]. The 3,3′-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity.[5] [6] Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anticancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled more than ten minutes.[7] A high intake of broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.[8] Broccoli leaf is also edible and contains far more betacarotene than the florets.

Broccoli is usually boiled or steamed, but may be eaten raw and has become popular as a raw vegetable in hors-d’oeuvre trays. Although boiling has been shown to reduce the levels of suspected anticancer compounds in broccoli, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying have been shown not to reduce the presence of these compounds.[7]

Broccoli is also high in vitamin K.

– wikipedia

I prefer my broccoli “stir-fried”; in a skillet with some olive oil or butter. Which is good because thats how you keep the nutritional value. I put it on my Amy’s Organic frozen pizza’s, add it to my macaroni & cheese (I don’t stir-fry that, I just thaw it and add it to the mixture before baking), and eat it right out of the aforementioned skillet while I’m cooking it, sometimes. And the other major component here thats excellent for you is olive oil.

So many people hear “fats and oils aren’t good for you” so they omit them totally, or as much as possible. With olive oil, this couldn’t be further from the truth:

Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats in the diet is linked with a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.[23] This is significant because olive oil is considerably rich in monounsaturated fats, most notably oleic acid.

There is a large body of clinical data to show that consumption of olive oil can provide heart health benefits such as favourable effects on cholesterol regulation and LDL cholesterol oxidation, and that it exerts antiinflamatory, antithrombotic, antihypertensive as well as vasodilatory effects both in animals and in humans.[26]

– wikipedia

Not that that means you should drink bottles of  the stuff everyday, but in moderation it really can help more than hurt. Now isn’t that good news!?

All hot & steamy in the pan…

This recipe is loosely taken from a book I recieved recently at a fundraiser at Lord & Taylor. I met the author and she signed the book for me, and I read it that night. The title is I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti and the author is Giulia Melucci. Its a novel about her love life, and how food was so intertwined with it, interspersed with her recipes, most of which are mouthwateringly tempting. I didn’t really need a recipe to tell me how to make this dish, its so easy, but when I saw this recipe in her book it made me crave it so much I’m giving her the credit. Plus, her dish has a bit more going on than mine- I didn’t use the walnuts and raisins myself, but left them in the recipe in case you did.  And as my friend Tania from Love Big, Bake Often suggested, toasted pine nuts would also be good. I also thought I had penne in the house, but instead only had ziti and rotini, so I used ziti. Pasta is pasta, right? Buon Appetito!



  • 1 pound broccoli (if you buy it frozen, buy broccoli florets)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • ½ cup raisins*
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts*
  • 1 pound penne
  • Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese


  1. Wash the broccoli and cut into florets; discard the stalks. If you’re using frozen, just rinse them in cool water in a strainer to “thaw” them a bit before cooking.
  2. In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta and the broccoli, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. When the garlic is golden, add the broccoli, raisins and a big pinch of salt.  Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture gets too dry.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet for 5 to 6 minutes over medium heat, giving the skillet a shake every so often. Watch them or they will burn! Once they’re toasted, remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and add the penne to the skillet with the broccoli, then add a splash of olive oil and the toasted walnuts.
  5. Serve in warm bowls, and sprinkle generously with parmigiano cheese. If you’re lactose intolerant (or have no cheese), a ¼ cup of bread crumbs can be substituted.

*Like I said, I omitted these.

A delicious and healthy way to eat pasta! Even better if you use whole-wheat pasta.  I added slightly more red pepper because I like my food with a kick.

Since its meatless, this is a good dish for all you religious folk to eat this week. I don’t get down like that, I just eat it because its good. Amen!

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  1. Mercy, this doesn’t mean that cupcake rehab is going to become brocolli bender or something does it? but good on you for the lifestyle change. I’ve had to up the exercercise as I approach 40, but I’ve long realised I have absolutely zero will power over my food intake. Good thing I like vegetables. Bad thing I like bacon sarnies.

  2. i was a freak as a baby, spinach was my vegetable of choice. i’m talking, straight out of the can. ick.

    this recipe looks really good though, i also try to eat healthy but i don’t think i can ever give up the pizza rolls =\ ha

  3. Kitty: Have no fear. I can still eat 4 cupcakes in a row for breakfast, so theres no way this site is going to become broccoli rehab. 🙂 I love bacon too…

    Kristin: I absolutely hate spinach, Jay loves it… ugh. You know I haven’t had pizza rolls in years, but everytime I pass them in the supermarket I wanna buy the bag of 50 and eat them all haha..

    Anna: Thats pretty much one of the variations I use when making it! I refuse to boil it because it makes it soggy, and it loses most of the nutritional value anyway, so I may as well be eating green marshmallows. I could definitely at this point eat a giant bowl of it for dinner, like a massive bowl. A salad bowl. Haha. 😡

  4. Don’t worry, I’m totally in love with broccoli too… Always have been, so this dish is totally up my alley.

  5. Broccoli is heaven. I freely admit that I’d rather eat broccoli than a cupcake…

    Unless its a Magnolia Bakery recipe vanilla cupcake with thick vanilla buttercream… then… not so much.

  6. Oh I hope I don’t sound like a wet blanket pushing this but you probably felt better form exercising and eating better than losing the weight. I’ll just link you to one of my favourite posts from Kate Harding to show you what I mean

    Meanwhile, your recipe looks mouth-watering. I’m going to make this sometime next week – another brocolli lover here!

  7. It’s possible that thats true, but the extra 50 pounds wasn’t doing me any good either way. Not to justify it further, but 50 pounds is the current weight of my puppy, and the thought of carrying what amounted to him around every day makes me a bit sick to think of, especially since it was all just extra, unnecessary weight. Diabetes, heart problems and cancer all are in my family and weight is directly tied in to high risk of all of those… I know that weight isn’t a guarantee, I’ve seen many thin people get cancer and diabetes as well as heavy people, but why not try and prevent something if you can? And regardless of what Kate’s blog says, I’ve heard and read doctors confirm such things, and even if they’re wrong, like I said, was that extra 50 pounds doing me any good? No. It was actually making me unhappy- I didn’t like being a size 12/14, I didn’t like not being able to wear what I wanted, etc. I sort of resent a lot of the comments at that site, growing up I was always very skinny and underweight for my height (I was always the tallest in my class)… and me being a bit heavier was just a recent blip in a life of being otherwise very thin, not through anything I did, but just by my body type. And many of those people are attacking “skinny” people in just the same way they don’t want “fat” people to be attacked. The author of the post made a lot of good points, but her comments and responses to people are slightly hypocritical.

    All that said- I didn’t start out thinking I would lose weight; I had no set goal to do so… and while I probably would’ve felt better even if I hadn’t lost it, I’m glad I did. Losing 5 sizes wasn’t really a big consideration at the time though, I just wanted to start eating better and get moving.

    But… I admit… I’m just really vain and I do prefer wearing nice, small sizes, haha. So if that makes me deluded or a bad person so be it. I’m not saying I was bad or ugly when I was bigger, I just wasn’t happy with myself and I’m going to still stick with the theory that I wasn’t on the road to being a perfect specimen of good health either.

  8. Eck, I know my reply is really late, but I’m sorry if the blog came off that way, but (as a reader, not as a writer, of the blog) I’d like to believe this thing promotes a better, less judgmental view of larger people – that they’re people too really, and do what “normal” (by the government’s standards) people do, right down to eating habits and even if they aren’t, they still should be treated with human dignity.

    I won’t apologise for giving the link, because I feel like it speaks a lot especially in our fat-phobia era but at the same time, I won’t judge you for the weight you lost.You’re not judging me so I have no right to 🙂 The health matters more in this case, really. As long as you feel and look awesome, it’s all that matters.

  9. The message is a fine one- I think you should be judged by your character and nothing else… of course thats not the way the world works, sadly, which is why racism is still an issue as well as sexism. But I was just a bit irritated at how the comments (even the comments of the author herself) became more of a ‘bash skinny people convention’ than anything else… including telling one girl “Get off these comments, skinny bitch” when all she did was disagree … now if you preach acceptance, then accept everyone. Thats what bothered me about it. Why does it have to be that if you’re fat, you want acceptance, but only at the expense of anyone who ISN’T fat? You can’t preach acceptance and then turn around and make someone else an outcast.

    I agree everyone should be treated with dignity. But that includes sizes 0/2, 4/6, 8/10 and 12/14 as well as 16 – 20 and over that. But also… there are shitheads in the world, and it doesn’t matter if they’re black, white, tall, short, fat or thin, they’re shitheads. And that blog post comments area seemed to attract a lot of a certain kind of shithead. Shitheads who just needed a reason to make themselves important, and bash someone else.

    I’m not saying YOU’RE like that, I’m saying the majority of the commenters on that post were.

  10. You should really try it with the raisins and walnuts. Adds a whole ‘nother amazing flavor!!

  11. You know, I don’t eat them regularly, but they are completely different cooked.

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