Leftover Broccoli Sauce

You know that thing where you buy two big bunches of broccoli for dinner one night and then you only end up using one bunch so the other bunch sits in your refrigerator in a plastic bag for a week? And then, one week later, you look at it and kind of feel sorry for it and don’t want to throw it away but at the same time it’s kind of limper than it was one week earlier: less Jessica Rabbit, more Jessica Tandy? Here’s something you can do.

Cut that sad leftover broccoli into florets.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and in a skillet add 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin, and 3 or 4 anchovies.

When the water’s at a boil, salt it heavily and drop in a box of ziti. Meanwhile, crank up the heat on the pan with the oil, garlic and anchovies. The scene will look something like this:


When the anchovies have melted into the oil and the garlic is fragrant, add a sprinkling of red chile flakes and then all of your broccoli. Sprinkle with salt and then stir the broccoli in with the oil so the broccoli fries a little bit. It won’t turn brown, but it’ll put on a nice coat of that garlic oil mixture before you stop the garlic from burning by adding a ladleful of your pasta cooking water.

That’s the trick, really, to turn anything in a pan with garlic, oil and anchovies into a sauce: add the pasta water. Boom. That’s what you see in the picture at the top of this post. That’s what forms the Leftover Broccoli Sauce that gives this post its name.

Now it’s all about timing. When the pasta is just about ready, add lemon zest and lemon juice to the pan with the broccoli. Lift the pasta into the pan with the broccoli sauce and allow it to finish cooking in there, with the heat cranked up high. (That way the pasta absorbs all of that garlic anchovy flavor too.)

When the pan’s pretty dry, take it off the heat, drizzle with good olive oil and a big healthy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Behold:


I’m going to tell you a secret: this dinner was so incredibly tasty, I ate way more than I should have. In fact, I ate every last bite. Something about that combination of garlic, anchovy, and broccoli is magic: maybe because the broccoli acts like a sponge and soaks up all that garlicky, briny goodness? I’m not sure.

But the next time your broccoli ages past its prime, don’t throw it away. Make Leftover Broccoli Sauce and that broccoli will be a winner just like Jessica Tandy was a winner in 1990 when she won the Oscar for “Driving Miss Daisy.”

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13 thoughts on “Leftover Broccoli Sauce”

    1. Salt-packed anchovies are the best but also require you to fillet them yourself. For this recipe, store-bought anchovies in oil are perfect. No particular brand, really, but try a few and see what you like.

  1. One of my absolute favorites. I’m sure you already know, but this is awesome with cauliflower and Brussels too. I like to use anchovy paste because thinking about the little fishies gives me the willies. ;)

  2. This is almost certainly what I will make tonight, I do have that second head of broccoli you describe. I wonder, will it miss a note without the anchovy? I am a vegetarian. I am always fighting to avoid flat flavors when I leave out a key ingredient.

    1. Meghanssj, I have a vegan friend who often drops in some capers in lieu of anchovies in recipes. She says they add some of the salty briny taste the anchovies bring. I am not an anchovy fan myself, so will probably do capers instead when I make this.

  3. Mike Inkansascity

    I just made this using prosciutto instead of anchovies and added some halved grape tomatoes at the end. Excellent – appreciated the reminder/instructions to add almost-cooked pasta to sauce. Really like ‘freeform’ recipes like this one.

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