Betsy and I generally agree on flavors and foods. We both love Asian cuisine, and Tex-Mex is clearly high on both of our lists. But the one cuisine that we just don’t mesh on is Mediterranean food.
Things like olives, capers, and anchovies just don’t do it for Betsy and I could eat them every single day.
So, while I was making this dish recently, I could see the expression in Betsy’s eyes. It was an expression that asked, “What did I do to deserve this?!”
Nothing, of course. But, I thought she might like some of the flavors if they were mixed into a pasta salad rather than just straight on a plate.
To her credit, she did eat the dish. She’s a trooper like that. But I think she would rank it well into the bottom 10% of recipes I’ve made for her.
Meanwhile, I loved it!
1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water. You can guestimate it.
2) Chop florets off of broccoli head and cut any large ones in half. Peel stem of broccoli and dice it.
3) Blanch broccoli in salted water for 2 minutes until the pieces are bright green. Don't overcook them!
4) Remove broccoli and set aside.
5) Cook pasta in same water according to package instructions.
6) In a large skillet with high walls or large pot, add olive oil over medium-low heat. Add anchovies and mash up to distribute flavor. (Anchovies are optional).
7) Once anchovies have simmered for a minute,add broccoli and stir together.
8) Drain pasta and add cooked pasta to skillet. Toss to combine.
9) Add olives and drizzle with red wine vinegar. Top with crumbled fetas and fresh chives. Serve warm or cold.
I recommend not including anchovies if you plan to keep for many days as flavor will intensify.
While the flavors in this dish come from some of the later add-ins, a lot of the texture comes from broccoli.
To prep the broccoli, just cut off the florets and chop any large ones in half.
Then peel and dice the stalk as well.
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and salt it well. I like to use about a tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water, but honestly I kind of just eyeball it.
Dunk the broccoli in the water for about two minutes and then pull it out, but don’t dump the water because you can also cook the pasta in it.
The blanched broccoli should be bright green and still be slightly crispy.
Ok. Here is where I might lose some people.
This recipe has anchovies in it.
They are totally optional though and I actually would recommend leaving them out if you plan to eat the pasta salad over many days as the anchovy flavor will intensify and overpower some of the other flavors.
If you like anchovies though, give it a shot. They add a great savory flavor to the salad.
For the pasta, almost any pasta will do the trick.
I went with this fun tri-color pasta.
I would stay away from strand pastas though like spaghetti or linguine just because they don’t work great in a pasta salad.
All Together Now
When you’re ready to make the salad, add the olive oil to a large skillet or pot and mash up your anchovies in the oil. This will really flavor the oil.
By the end of the recipe you won’t even be able to find anchovies in it. They will almost disintegrate in the oil.
But again, feel free to leave them out if they aren’t your thing.
After cooking the anchovies over low heat for a few minutes, add the broccoli and stir it together.
Then add in the pasta and stir again to combine the flavors. Also stir in the olive and drizzle some red wine vinegar over the salad.
Add the feta and chives and you are ready to go!
You almost certainly won’t need any extra salt since the olives, feta, and anchovies are all pretty salty, but it never hurts to taste it for salt and pepper.
Like I said, if you are using anchovies, I think this is best right away, slightly warm.
If you want to make this for lunches or something, I might leave the anchovies out or add them right before eating the salad.
I thought these flavors were great, but it’s true that some of the ingredients might be an acquired taste!