Spaghetti with Broccoli, Crushed Red Pepper and Feta Cheese

Baby Lady has pointed out I haven’t posted any recipes for Pasta as of yet. The fact the blog is only 3 days old did not deter her.  So, this recipe is for the Baby Lady and the special place she holds in my heart.  Also, if I don’t post it she is going to continually remind me I have yet to post a pasta recipe. 😀


This recipe is one of Baby Lady’s favorites and is taken from Sarah Moulton’s Sara’s Weeknight Meals, Episode 201, with minor adaptation (I’m an equal opportunity plagiarizer and gladly help myself to other people’s ideas and recipes.  How else do we learn?). It is a wonderful, easy and quick pasta dish using feta cheese and is relatively inexpensive. The salty tanginess of the feta blends beautifully with the chicken broth and pasta. For those who must have some type of meat protein in their meal, you can add some roasted chicken pieces to the recipe but it really doesn’t need it. This is a full flavored meal that is delectable and satisfying.

Like many, I never was a big fan of feta cheese. It was OK in the occasional salad but that was about it. Then I was introduced to Greek food.  Then, it was Middle Eastern food.  All of the sudden my eyes were definitely opened and my palate pleasantly teased by the discovery of the multiple uses and flavor combinations you can use with feta cheese. It really is a wonderful cheese with a variety of uses.

Feta often called “Pickled Cheese”  is a brined curd cheese and forms an important part of the Mediterranean cuisine. It is aged and has a grainy texture.  Feta cheese is salted and cured in a brine solution for several months, and made of whole sheep’s milk, although many are now made with goat’s milk or a mixture of the two. It is white, cut into square cakes, and can range from soft to semi-hard, with a tangy, salty flavor that can range from mild to sharp. There are different varieties of feta cheese, too.

  • French Feta: Usually made with excess sheeps’ milk that is not used for making Roquefort. French Feta is typically mild and creamy. Some goats’ milk Feta is also made in France and can be slightly drier and tangier.
  • Bulgarian Feta: Made from sheeps’ milk. Creamier texture, usually less salty. Sometimes it has a little bit of a grassy or “sheepy” flavor mixed in with a yeasty, tangy finish.
  • Greek Feta: The real deal. (Unfortunately, due to the great demand for feta cheese in Greece and restrictions on unpasteurized milk, you will probably have difficulty finding the real thing outside of Greece. If you do find it, it will be pricey.) Made from at least 70% sheeps’ milk, often with a little goats’ milk blended in. Salty and tangy, usually rich and creamy, although versions with more goats’ milk tend to be drier.
  • Israeli Feta: Full-flavored, creamy, and usually not overly salty Feta made from sheeps’ milk .
  • American Feta: Can be made with sheep, goat or even cows’ milk. Usually the predominant flavor is tangy and the texture is less creamy and more crumbly.

We like the French Feta, not only the flavor but it seems to cream this dish out better than the harder, drier feta, i.e. Turkish feta.  You can find good feta cheese at any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean market. Generally, there will be several different types of feta.  It will be in their “deli” section in containers stored in its brine and sold by the pound. Feta cheese is best when eaten fresh, so always check the date. If you will not be consuming it immediately, store feta cheese in its brine. Properly stored in brine and refrigerated, feta cheese will last up to 3 months. Do not freeze it.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 12 oz spaghetti pasta (you can use almost any pasta, penne, fettucini, capelli d’angelo, linguini, etc.)
  • 2 c Rich Chicken Stock or canned broth (homemade stock does make a huge difference)
  • 1/2 to 1 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 oz feta cheese
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Cut the broccoli tops into bite-size florets; trim and peel the stems and slice them 1/2 inch thick (about 7 cups total). When the pot of water comes to a boil, add the broccoli.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

Cook for 3 minutes; remove the broccoli to a bowl using a slotted spoon and use this water to boil your pasta.  The broccoli will continue to cook from its residual heat and be perfect when finished.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente following the directions on the package.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

Cooking the spaghetti in the broccoli water helps the spaghetti pick up some of the flavors of the broccoli.  Cooking it al dente keeps it from over cooking when we get to the next step.  Also, by keeping it al dente it will finish cooking in the next step and pick up more flavors from the sauce.  When the pasta is al dente, drain and return the pasta to the cooking pot.

In the interim while the pasta is cooking, put the chicken stock and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

After draining the pasta, add the hot chicken stock and pepper mixture to the pasta.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

Now add the crumbled feta and broccoli and toss.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

Heat over medium heat until hot and cheese has melted; add salt, if needed. Serve and enjoy.

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

1/31/2012 UPDATE

Tonight we decided to try the recipe with cauliflower and rotini pasta. It was nice but the broccoli is preferred by all.  Nonetheless, you give it a try and be the judge.

5 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Broccoli, Crushed Red Pepper and Feta Cheese”

    1. It tastes a whole lot better than the cover photo. We have a Mediterranean market somewhat close to the house, i.e. less than10 miles, that has high quality feta. When we did the recipe with chicken the other night I used a pound of French feta which is usually made with excess sheeps’ milk that is not used for making Roquefort. French Feta is typically mild and creamy. It’s perfect in this preparation. You probably could use goat cheese instead of feta if you wanted more tanginess. I hope you give this a try, especially with your new found cheese purveyor. 🙂

Food for thoughts

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