Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tortiglioni with purple broccolini, ricotta and lemon zest

I used to write a diary, where I kept all my inner thoughts and deepest secrets that I didn’t want anyone to know about and it has been that way sometimes here too; I have written things here that I haven’t even talked about with actual people. Blogging does that to you. It fools you into thinking that you are writing your personal journal intended for your own eyes only.

There have been times when I have written long blog posts that after reading them a second time, they felt too personal, too much information given that I wasn’t sure I wanted to share with the world and so were kept unpublished. And then there are other times when words are so difficult to come out of me that I can hardly formulate a single sentence worth publishing. It is tricky this blogging thing, still after five years, perhaps because of these five years. Finding a balance between what you want or don’t want to say is complicated.

Someone told me the other day that it’s not important if anyone reads my blog as long as I enjoy writing it. I had a different opinion but I didn’t share it with her because firstly, I am convinced she has never read my blog and secondly, because I believe she wouldn’t get it. If I did it just for myself, I wouldn’t be writing a blog, but said diary. I believe this applies to all bloggers.

Truth is, I enjoy the feeling that someone out there is reading what I have to say, makes a recipe I have shared, enjoys looking at my photographs, feels something because of what they find here. When I started this blog, I realized there were things to be said, things to be shared, not necessarily heavy stuff but everyday realities and stories about food and life in general. Before starting this blog I never thought anyone would want to read what I had to say. Some people do, though, and I want to thank them. Thank you.

I myself rarely follow a food blog whose author I can’t relate to or am unable to get to know them through their blog. I don’t follow blogs just for recipes but for the person behind those recipes. I want to know them a little, know what they are like as human beings, get a glimpse into their lives a bit. Not every blog post has to be a bearing of their soul, I'm not implying that, but they have to be able to give something. That’s why I never understood why any blogger would leave a comment on my blog without leaving their names too. It’s not about simply leaving a comment but trying to connect in some way, and you can’t do that without being open. Perhaps I’m being romantic but that’s how I see it.

So this food blogger cooked something and finally had time to photograph it. A simple pasta dish yet extremely tasty and satisfying. I found purple broccolini at the market and I couldn’t help but put a bunch in my basket. The idea of this pasta dish was born right then and there.

The broccolini were blanched and then quickly sautéed in olive oil and garlic, the tortiglioni were cooked al dente and gently dropped into the same pan. Ricotta was added to create a smooth “sauce” along with some of the pasta water, lemon zest for freshness and sharpness, and a good grating of Grana Padano for the salty and oumami flavor. It was a delicate pasta dish that smelled of spring.

Tortiglioni with purple broccolini, ricotta and lemon zest

You can also use rigatoni or penne rigate instead of tortiglioni. Also, if you’re in Greece, you can use anthotyro insetad of ricotta.

Broccolini (or bimi in Dutch) is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It is extremely popular in The Netherlands and has become one of my favorite vegetables. There is a green and purple variety and their flavor is similar to that of broccoli but sweeter, milder and more tender.
You can substitute with purple sprouting broccoli (scheutjesbroccoli in Dutch) or green asparagus. Now is also the season in Greece and all the Mediterranean of wild asparagus, so if you can find it use it! Also, you can cut the small florets of a regular broccoli and use it in this recipe instead of the broccolini.

Update 22.03.2015: My mom found broccolini at one of Athens' open markets, so they can be found in Greece!

Yield: 2 generous servings

200 g (12-13) purple broccolini
250 g tortiglioni pasta
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, mashed or grated
200 g fresh ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground white pepper
Grana Padano (or Parmesan), freshly grated

Special equipment: grater, colander

Fill a large pot with water, add salt and place it over high heat. When the water starts to boil, add the broccolini and blanch for 2-3 minutes, until the stems are almost tender. Remove the broccolini with a slotted spoon and into a colander to drain and cool a bit. Don’t discard the water! When cool, cut the broccolini in half if they are too long.

Place the pot back on the heat and bring the water you used to blanch the broccolini to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente or to your liking.

In the meantime, in a large, wide sauté pan (one that will fit the pasta as well) add 4 Tbsp of the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds, being careful not to burn it. Add the broccolini and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Do not toss the broccolini too much or the florets will break up. Season with a little salt and white pepper.

At this point, the pasta should be cooked. Take a cupful of pasta water and reserve it. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the broccolini. Add the ricotta to the pan and a little of the pasta water, grate the lemon zest directly over the pan so that the oils of the lemon fall in the pan, and mix gently all the ingredients together, being careful not to break up the broccolini. Check the consistency and add more pasta water in order to have a creamy “sauce”.
Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and serve immediately in plates.
Grate as much Grana Padano on the top and enjoy!


  1. What a great post! Something that I can really relate to at this moment :)
    I am a newbie food blogger and I've been really pondering on how much should I share about the little "behind-the-scenes-tidbits" in my posts. I wonder if people care about the story of me asking my mom about recipes I'm going to post on my blog, etc.. I do hope people would enjoy reading the stories I share ..

    This is Olivia ;)

    By the way, the photos of the broccolini are beautiful!

  2. Dear Magda,

    What a beautiful post! And what a fabulously tasty and comforting meal you've prepared. Thank you for sharing your recipes, your gorgeous photography, and a little bit of your soul in each post. You have at least one reader who really looks forward to your next creation.

    You also inspire me to write for my blog, which has been neglected for... well, years, I'm sorry to say.

    Keep writing, keep sharing, keep inspiring.


    1. Dear Mandie, so glad to find a note from you this morning :) Thank you for your sweet and supportive words. If you feel the need to, start blogging again. I would love to follow your own stories and adventures!

  3. I have enjoyed reading your blog for precisely the reasons you list. The person behind it, and the fact that she shares just enough to make it comfortable and a welcoming place. I will say this: Your photos are getting to be pure works of art! A hug from Beirut.

    1. Thank you very much Joumana. It makes me happy to hear that you enjoy my blog and photos :)

  4. I agree with Taste of Beirut. Said it before and will say it again: you are at the top of my favourite foodblogs. What I didn't say last time, I will say now - the main reason is because your blog has soul, but measured soul, almost understated, which is precisely why it is so powerful to me. There you have it: a little bit more I have revealed too ;)
    Thank you for your recipes, wonderful pics, and the peeks into your world.

    1. Thank you for your sweet words. Thank you for reading :)

  5. Magda, you wrote about something that is very close to my heart and that I think about a lot. Sometimes I want to be bold, like some other bloggers, and talk about everything that crosses my mind, my marriage, my job etc. I want to publish pictures of my kids and myself and share everything because I feel true affection for some of the people that follow me. Other times I feel very private and am shocked to read how much I opened up in old blog posts, or some pictures I published... because we do sometimes forget that there are people behind this screen, and many of them are strangers. I do agree, however, when you write that we would not blog if we were only writing for ourselves. It is not necessarily that we want to show off or receive praise, it is more about finding people that we have something in common with, that has a passion for the same things we do. There are a million of blogs and recipes out there, and although I often cook from the blogs I read, there are some I have never cooked from, but that I read all the time because I truly feel like I am connecting with a friend. Other blogs I read because they are beautiful or interesting but I NEVER comment on them and sometimes I don't even feel a connection to the author. Some food blogs are just boring lists of recipes and even if they are good, after a while I lose interest and move on. And yes, it is hard to find a balance in how much to write and also how often you write... but one thing I can say, is that I truly do feel a connection with many of you and look forward to each and every new post!

    1. I think it is a common theme with many bloggers, the fine line between sharing and over-sharing. Thanks for your support! I enjoy your blog too :)

  6. Great post and great pasta! Of course, being Italian, I think that Grana Padano was the good "conclusion" of the plate, but besides this, great creativity! Cheers from Rome and keep going!

  7. Hi Magda - I think you really did get to the core of why we blog. When I first started, I only felt validated if people commented. Then I realized that I just wanted people to be reading, enjoying, and perhaps creating... because of me. Your work, over these five years, has continued to inspire and challenge me. I admire your thought process, I thin your photos are truly amazing, and I read every word you write. And I miss you when you aren't there. Thank you for being all that for me - and for others - as we continue sharing ourselves with the world. xo, David

  8. P.S. - and, of course, the pasta looks fantastic. I am always disappointed to see how the purple broccolini turns green when cooked. But its sweet taste makes up for its faded color...

    1. I have never gotten consistently lots of comments from readers, so I pretty soon gave up on the idea of getting those big numbers of comments I see on popular blogs. That never deterred me from writing or sharing what I want to share. It is always nice though to be able to see the reaction of people to something I have shared here, get feedback and know that I am doing here is not only for me. Thank you for always supporting me David. It means a lot to me :) Keep up blogging too, you are amazing!