I Always Overcook My Broccoli — Here’s Why You Should Too

This simple "mistake" might just be the perfect way to enjoy the vegetable.

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Photograph by Mike Garten for Food Network Magazine.

Photograph by Mike Garten for Food Network Magazine.

As a working parent, steamed broccoli is an easy go-to veggie for me to serve my kids on a busy school night. Unlike me, my kids hate roasted broccoli. They claim it tastes bitter, and they aren't necessarily wrong. Roasting tends to concentrate the bitterness of broccoli. Personally, I like that. My kids? Not so much.

More often than not, when I’m steaming broccoli, I have a bad habit of leaving it unattended and inevitably, I overcook it. But then a funny thing happened. After making this "mistake" quite a few times, my kids declared that they preferred eating broccoli in this way. I wasn’t necessarily shocked — overcooked broccoli does have a delicate flavor and an almost creamy texture. After eating it a few times with a little melted butter and some salt and pepper (see picture above), I began to understand the accidental charm of this mushy side dish.

Now, I am in no way claiming credit for overcooked broccoli. In fact, Italians have a famous pasta dish called Broccoli Ripassati that revolves entirely around the mushy vegetable. In its simplest form, the dish consists of overcooked broccoli sauteed with garlic; the broccoli is then mashed with pasta water and tossed with any kind of pasta (spaghetti and orecchiette tend to be the most popular) and Parmesan cheese. It can also be dressed up with some ricotta cheese, cream, crushed red pepper or anchovy filets. Though it’s not a dish you'll find on many restaurant menus in Italy — it's considered to be more of a humble home-cooked meal — it’s still one I can’t get enough of when I'm traveling.

Photograph by Khalil Hymore.

Photograph by Khalil Hymore.

I based the Broccoli Pasta recipe (pictured above) I developed for Food Network Magazine’s recent March/April 2022 double-issue on this dish. It’s simple, easy and only uses 5-ingredients, making it perfect for weeknights. I’ve also found that mushy broccoli to be the perfect ingredient to incorporate into, and transform, a handful of other dishes. It can be finely chopped or mashed and stirred into eggs for an omelet or frittata. It can be topped with a generous handful of grated gruyere and crunchy panko to make an ultra-comforting gratin, which can be eaten completely on its own or served on the side of your favorite protein. It can even be pureed with broth and cream for a simple soup. It’s super delicious whipped into mashed potatoes, and sometimes, I even mash it with avocado and spread it over whole grain toast for a healthy snack or breakfast!

In short: if you overcook your broccoli, like me, there’s no need to throw it away! Just enjoy its delicate flavor and creamy texture in other applications. Now if you overcook your nuts while toasting them in the oven (another kitchen problem of mine), I can’t help you there. You’re on your own!

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