Once you have your pasta water at a boil and your broccoli cut into florets, this dish - a perfect weekday quick-comfort meal - takes no time at all to prepare. The star here is the crispy broccoli. You create that crispiness by allowing your pant and oil to get a lot hotter than you normally would - to the point where the oil is just about smoking - then quickly throwing in the broccoli and covering the pan. The broccoli sears around the edges, caramelizes, and develops a real depth of flavor. The capellini or angel hair pasta cooks in 3 minutes, so don't put it in the boiling water until the broccoli/broth part of the recipe is ready. (If you want the pasta wait for the sauce, it will start clumping up.) Finally, here's a handy tip on how to grate your Parmigiano-Reggiano without scraping your knuckles raw: just cut it into chunks, toss it into the food processor, and let the blades grate it as fine as you like. Serve with crusty bread and a side of Borscht Beets.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the broccoli and season with salt, to taste. Cover and cook until just crispy and brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the cover, stir, and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cover and cook until the florets are crisp but tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and pepper flakes.
Add the capellini to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the broccoli and stock. Stir in half the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 warmed soup plates and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, Broadway Books, 2002