There is a purple light at the end of a wintry tunnel. When you feel as if you might never want to look at another root vegetable, purple sprouting broccoli peeks its head out and everything starts to feel more spring like. Our local sprouting grows throughout winter, though is best in February and March, leading up to the first asparagus of the season. Whilst I like the calabrese variety of broccoli, it is sprouting that I look forward to more.
Whether it be the purple or white variety, it becomes the ever present green on our plates. The thin stems and broad leaves have a mild bitterness, which is great with a piece of grilled cod or a robust stew. It's also delicious when steamed and dressed with warm oyster sauce and ginger. Though perhaps my favourite way, is with pasta.
Tomato based pasta sauces are plentiful and delicious (if a little repetitive), so excluding the "golden apple" can be a bit of a challenge. Melted leeks with prosciutto, or slow cooked peas with mint are delicious but most people will probably reach for carbonara when they want a change. Cooked properly, carbonara is rich, cheap and easy to make. A little crumbled Italian sausage combines beautifully with the eggs, cheese and broccoli for an interesting twist on the classic guanciale.
This will serve four people.
Whisk 1 whole egg and two egg yolks with a good handful each of parmesan and pecorino until well combined. Blanch two good handfuls of sprouting broccoli until tender, then drain and shock in cold water. Crumble two fat Italian sausages or well spiced English bangers in to a frying pan with a ton of ground black pepper and heat slowly to release the fat and crisp the edges.
Boil 400g of penne in well salted water until al dente. Toss the pasta and broccoli in the sausage fat with a few tablespoons of the pasta water. Then, off the heat, add your egg and cheese mixture to the pasta and toss as if your life depended upon it. Add more pasta water as you go to achieve a silky sauce.
Serve with more grated parmesan or pecorino at the table.