Whole wheat pasta with peas and broccoli: rich in antioxidants and tasty
Time: prep. 10 mins
cook. 20 mins
Difficulty: very easy
Yield: 2 servings
In this transition period from winter to spring, our bodies are most in need of care and attention. So let’s load up on seasonal vegetables, full of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Whole wheat pasta with peas and broccoli is therefore a great choice for anyone looking to have a healthy, sustainable and balanced diet without spending a fortune.
In these weeks of the year, those of us who live in the warmer parts of the world are lucky enough to have access to fresh peas, but don’t worry, if you can’t find them yet, replace them with frozen ones.
A meal that provides the right amount of protein, carbohydrates (starches, sugars and fibre) and fat in a single course is called a one-dish meal, which is exactly what the whole wheat pasta with peas and broccoli in this recipe do. Their strength lies in their extreme simplicity. What’s more, they are great dinner/lunch alternatives for anyone with limited time in the kitchen.
In particular, one-dish meals made from a combination of legumes (proteins) and cereals (carbohydrates) have very ancient roots. A sort of intuitive knowledge led people to eat these two macro-nutrients often together: pasta and chickpeas, pasta and beans, rice and peas, rice and lentils, grits and beans, bean tacos, dahl and rice, the examples are numerous. These combinations are very useful as legumes, although rich in protein do not have all the essential amino acids. Cereals, on the other hand, which are not rich in protein but contain the essential amino acids that legumes lack, therefore become ‘natural aminoacid supplements’. This is why such combinations are worth their weight in kitchens where little or no complete animal protein is consumed.
Pea proteins have excellent bioavailability (meaning that the body can assimilate a large part of their protein content) and a low concentration of anti-nutrients. Their “Achilles heel” is the lack of sulphur amino acids, like methionine and cystine), with tryptophan(1). This is where whole wheat fusilli come to the aid of peas, as they are rich in methionine (cystine could be synthesised from methionine) and tryptophan(2), making them providential not only for the complete amino acid profile, but also for an enveloping flavor appreciated by all, including the most sophisticated fine dining lovers.
Ingredients for whole wheat pasta with peas and broccoli
300 g fresh broccoli
300 g peas (shelled if fresh)
2 tbsp chopped onions
160 g whole wheat pasta (I recommend whole wheat, but the choice is yours)
2 dried tomatoes, well washed
1 clove of garlic, crushed 10 minutes earlier (to see why, read here)
ten or so basil leaves (optional, but it fits really good)
salt to taste
chilli pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons of extravergine olive oil
1 tablespoon of lightly toasted pine nuts (you can also use other dried nuts: optional)
a drizzle of raw extravergine olive oil
a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar of Modena to season the pasta (To balance the sugary taste of peas in a vibrant way and to reduce the glycemic index of pasta which is famous for its high carbohydrate content (3, 4) give this bizarre suggestion a chance, I confess that I use a spoon, but for you it is preferable to start with 1 teaspoon).
If you’re short of time in the kitchen, I recommend using the pressure cooker. As well as halving cooking time, it uses less energy, which is good for both your energy bills and the environment. But probably its greatest asset is that by reducing cooking time through high pressure, it also reduces the inevitable damage to thermolabile nutrients. Some research suggests that the best way to preserve nutrients is to cook faster, despite a higher temperature (5, 6). So by using a good pressure cooker without “any risk of explosion”, you will maintain a good level of nutrients, shorten cooking time and reduce your bills
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Boil the fresh peas (if frozen, it is better to choose petit pois / super-fine peas) in unsalted water for 10-15 minutes (if using a pressure cooker, consider half that time).
In the meantime, in another pot, blanch the chopped broccoli in boiling water for 5 minutes, together with 2 sun-dried tomatoes (I prefer to cook without or with a little salt: each diner adjusts the amount he/she wants on his/her plate; while I only need the flavour coming from the sun-dried tomatoes, unfortunately my husband adds a little more); using a skimmer, pick up the cooked broccoli and do not throw away their water, which we will use for cooking the pasta.
As Chef Nicola Delfino suggested in this recipe, transfer the cooked broccoli immediately to ice water to stop the cooking process, then sauté it in a pan over low heat with a tablespoon of evo oil, the garlic clove, teaspoon (or more) of balsamic vinegar, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and, if you wish, some chilli pepper.
After pouring the fusilli into the boiling water of the broccoli, without wasting time, prepare the pea puree. But first, quickly toast the pine nuts in a frying pan, being very careful not to burn them, given how expensive they are! As soon as you see some dark spots on their surface, turn off the heat and transfer them to another container.
To cook the pasta I normally use my pressure cooker through passive cooking; that is, once the water is boiling again, I turn off the heat and wait for the residual heat to complete the cooking process (read more in this article).
Use the same pan to sauté the finely chopped onion with a tablespoon of evo oil; then add the boiled peas and a little of the pasta cooking water. After about 5 minutes, the peas will have absorbed the delicious onion fragrance.
Just before draining the pasta (I always advise you to collect the cooking water in a container, so that you can prepare a good soup like this the next day, without loosing B group vitamins and starch), with an immersion blender blend the peas to turn them into a puree; adjust the density by adding more or less cooking water: at this stage I add about ten leaves of fresh basil, or a level teaspoon of dry basil.
Then use a skimmer to transfer the cooked pasta to the pan of sautéed broccoli with garlic, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes, adding a little cooking water as necessary.
Prepare the plates by adding a ladleful of puree to the base and then the pasta with the sauce.
Serve the whole wheat pasta with broccoli and peas with toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.
Enjoy your meal and good revolution to all
(1) Leterme, Pascal, Thierry Monmart, and Evelyne Baudart. “Amino acid composition of pea (Pisum sativum) proteins and protein profile of pea flour.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 53.1 (1990): 107-110.
(2) Shewry, Peter R. “Wheat.” Journal of experimental botany 60.6 (2009): 1537-1553.
3) Yadav SK, Sehgal S. Effect of home processing on ascorbic acid and beta-carotene content of spinach (Spinacia oleracia) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1995 Feb;47(2):125-31. doi: 10.1007/BF01089261. PMID: 7792260.
4) The Influence of Processing and Preservation on the Retention of Health‐Promoting Compounds in Broccoli F. Galgano F. Favati M. Caruso A. Pietrafesa S. Natella First published: 12 March 2007 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00258.x
5) Masayuki, Y., Shiori, U., Kaori, I., et al. Effect of the postprandial blood glucose on lemon juice and rice intake. J-Stage 2020 Volume 7 Issue 2 Pages 174-180. https://doi.org/10.24659/gsr.7.2_174
6) Freitas, D., Boué, F., Benallaoua, M. et al. Lemon juice, but not tea, reduces the glycemic response to bread in healthy volunteers: a randomized crossover trial. Eur J Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s