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Spelt Pasta Shells with Roasted Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

As part of our weekly menu, we try to have at least one meatless night at Bistro Gerard, which is a nice way for Chef Gerald and Mummy to use some creative flair in the kitchen. The inspiration this time came from an abundant supply of broccoli and Brussels sprouts in the Bistro fridge, courtesy of our generous veggie box people.

All of us here absolutely love both Brussels sprouts and broccoli, and never miss an opportunity to use them. For a very long time though we have been on a quest to find the perfect cooking method/time, that would leave these delicate vegetables in that ideal state between crunchy and tender enough yet preserve their full flavour. We usually steam or stir fry them, but have found on many occasions that even one or two minutes of extra cooking time can turn a lovely serve of beautiful green veggies into a malodorous limp and unappetising bunch of pale green stuff. Daddy prefers his on the well-cooked side, as a proud son of “the land of the overcooked sprout”, who often reminisces of times when Brussels sprouts used to be boiled for hours. Chef Gerald, on the other hand, prefers his raw, when he can happily shred into a tightly packed sprout, or graze on the delicate buds of a broccoli head.

A few weeks ago, Mummy started noticing that roasted broccoli is slowly making its way into a growing number of Melbourne restaurant menus, so she decided that we must try this at home too. The key here is to heat the oven to a fairly hot temperature (200 – 210 degrees C) and also to break up the broccoli into florets to ensure it cooks quickly. We also cut the Brussels sprouts in half, but you may wish to quarter them if they are large.

The end result was great – we could happily munch on roasted broccoli and sprouts for a whole day if we had to without getting bored 🙂 The roasting process really brings out the broccoli flavour and the sweetness of sprouts, while at the same time giving them a lovely texture, soft enough but not mushy.

The recipe is also quick and easy enough to cook on a weeknight – the most time consuming stage is preparing the vegetables. In our case, Chef Gerald was happy to help as usual, and dinner had his signature beak marks imprinted in several places. Any leftovers will be great for lunch the following day too.

Spelt Pasta Shells with Gorgonzola Sauce and Roasted Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

400g dry pasta shells

400g Brussels sprouts

2 medium – large broccoli heads

4 shallots, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

150g mild Gorgonzola

125 ml double cream

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1 small bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C.

Start by preparing the vegetables: trim the stalks and the outer leaves of the sprouts, break the broccoli up into florets. Thoroughly wash the vegetables, then halve or quarter the sprouts. It’s best to ensure the broccoli is broken up into individual florets – if any of these are still quite large, leave them as they are for the time being. You can cut them up into smaller pieces after they have been roasted.

Spread vegetables in a single layer on a large flat tray, randomly brush them with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and lightly season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roast in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 – 25 minutes, until they start to brown. When done, remove from the oven and set aside.

In the mean time, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil, then add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan, add the chopped shallots and cook for 10 – 12 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the gorgonzola to the pan and melt. Add the cream and bring everything to the boil. Turn off the heat, mix in the lemon juice, chopped parsley and vegetables, and stir making sure the vegetables are thoroughly coated with the sauce. Fold everything into the pasta, and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serves 4

Chef Gerald was busy performing a kitchen safety inspection during this time:

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