Pork, Peppers, Pasta and Broccoli – A Skillet Dinner

For some reason, which feels a bit murky to me, our family didn’t eat many fresh vegetables, and that tradition stayed with me for decades and decades. Naturally we ate high quality  Le Sueur canned peas, since our maid, directed from Mom, I suppose, bought only the best quality, at least with the peas. Deep red beets too were canned, but  those I’ve always loved!  But too I remember the disgusting frozen  packages of vegetables, the mix carrots, peas,  string beans and maybe pearl onions.  These I have avoided forever, like a plague!  But then, as my cooking and baking passion expanded, and once married, living in Zurich, Switzerland for several years, I gradually ventured further into vegetables, trying  artichokes, string beans, fresh carrots, kohlrabi and fennel. However, not until past age sixty  did I begin to buy colored peppers.  Of course they cost more, and after extensive therapy I discovered I was privileged,quite fortunate and could buy them, in spite of their expense! Their taste was delicious

I like creating different dishes, not the usual ones. Different is the optimal word. Yes, usual, like meatloaf, chicken, a single steak or piece of salmon, or an easy stir fry, all fill us and we enjoy them immensely. Many dishes with veggies, spices or not, is fine, good, all delicious. But too, I like to celebrate cooking, food, present a spectacular meal.  I relish serving my creations to guests, family, or simply to my husband and I.  This recipe  presented a simple but complex meal, hearty but light too.

This dish was refreshing, unique, mostly because of the peppers.  I truly liked their color, how, once cut in strips, their  linear lines  influence the attractiveness of the overall dish.  But the highlight for me was  the abundant sweet flavor of the peppers, especially  when combined with the pork, which offered a slight kick. The contrast of  the ingredients, their colors – the green broccoli, spinach, whitish pasta, brown pork, onions and garlic — everything engaged with each other and the food rang a high note.  A lightly seasoned  sauce was the final  welcome accent.

To top things off, this skillet dinner was rather quick to bring together, especially once the peppers were cut up. Excitement built as I added the ingredients, one by one. I slowly  stirred and stirred the peppers on a low to medium heat as they reduced in size, softened, happy to know their sweet taste would culminate in deep satisfaction when  foods were incorporated.

Adaptable is the final huge word/element that I love in cooking and this creation offers an abundance of that. Please check  alternatives at the bottom of this recipe, in the Tips and Tweaks section.

INGREDIENTS                                                                                        Serves 3-4 generously

1/4 cup olive oil, divided as needed

1 lb. ground pork, or other meat of your choice

1/2  – 1 lb broccoli, cut in 1-2 inch chunks – about 4 cups

2 large red or yellow peppers, sliced thin, about 14 oz., 2 1/2 cups

4 garlic cloves minced

12-14 oz. rigatoni, or large pasta of your choice – not lasagna noodles -cooked in boiling salted water, to the tenderness you desire. Drain, save 3/4 cup of pasta water. Keep pasta covered, warm on a separate plate

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 scallions, chopped, white and green portions used

1 celery stalk, chopped coarsely

4-6 oz fresh spinach

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp water, mixed with 2  1/2 Tbsp flour

 

PROCESS

1   Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the pork or other meat you wish.  Break it up as it cooks, 7-10 minutes.  Scrape the meat out of the pan, place in a medium bowl, put aside. Add more oil to the pan, about 2 tablespoons. Add the broccoli and peppers, cooking 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light brown and nearly softened.  Add the spinach, celery and scallions, cook  3-5 minutes, on low-medium heat, adding another tablespoon of oil, as needed.  As the vegetables cook down, add the garlic, cook another 1-2 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic, stirring now and then. If the dish seems a bit dry, add 2-3 tablespoons water, plus the Worcestershire sauce, and the salt and pepper. Cover the pan, let it sit for a few minutes, undisturbed.

2    Add  the pasta water, and the meat, along with any accumulating juices.  Stir on  low to medium heat  as the sauce thickens slightly because of the pasta  water.  Add the flour and water mixture to the pan, stir for a few minutes as the dish thickens further.  Turn the heat off, stir in the cheese and lemon juice. Adjust for seasoning.  Serve over pasta, which may need to be reheat slightly.

TIPS AND TWEAKS:

  • Leave out meat for a vegetarian dish.
  • for a spicy dish, at step 2 add 1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes
  • Saute 8 oz sliced mushroom in at step 1, as you add the spinach, celery and scallions.
  • Instead of Parmesan cheese, try Fontina, or Gruyere.

 

 

 

 

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