Garlicky Garden Pasta Salad, or How to Stretch One Head of Broccoli into a Meal

Serves 6

My garden looks something like a head of curly, unruly green hair that hasn’t been brushed in a week. Kempt, it’s not. But somehow, despite the fact that I often forget to water it, hardly ever weed it, and let things run amok, it is still producing vegetables, and I am grateful for every little sugar snap pea and cherry tomato that braves this wild and wooly environment to grace our table.

It’s almost impossible to talk about kids and farmers’ markets or kids and gardening without sounding sanctimonious, which is one of my least favorite adjectives to sound like (or to have someone speaking to me sound like). But, boy, it’s just true that getting your kids to be more connected to the food they eat yields exponential dividends, and my kids don’t usually eat snow peas or cherry tomatoes until they are full unless they are standing around a plant that they had some contribution to growing.

So, one extraordinarily large plant yielded one head of broccoli, with a whole lot of flourish and fanfare. My friend called it the “Liberace of Vegetables,” which was perfect for this sprawled out head of broccoli surrounded by a collar of ridiculously oversized leaves. We were delighted. But we had to make the most of it since once it was gone…

I stretched it into a pasta salad and reminded everyone who was eating it several times that the broccoli came from our garden. I guess when you only get a few shots to brag about your vegetables, a little bit of sanctimoniousness kind of comes with the territory.

Garlicky Garden Pasta Salad, or How to Stretch One Head of Broccoli into a Meal


For the Dressing

  • ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

For the Pasta Salad

  • 1 pounds dried ziti or penne rigate (or other chunky pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 head broccoli grown from a tiny little plant (just kidding), cut into small florets
  • 1 pounds roasted cherry tomatoes (see Note)
  • 2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange, or a combination), roasted (see Note) and chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cups chopped fresh basil

1. To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, generously salt the water, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, transfer it to a large bowl, and set to the side.

3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic, and sauté for about 3 minutes until the garlic is golden brown. Add the broccoli florets, and sauté for about 4 minutes until the broccoli is nicely coated with the garlic oil and starting to turn bright green. Add ½ cup of water, cover the pan, and let the broccoli steam until it’s almost tender and the water has pretty much evaporated, about 4 minutes. Lift the lid, and add the roasted tomatoes, roasted peppers, and chickpeas. Stir until everything is warm, and all of the remaining water has evaporated. Stir in the chickpeas, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Add the vegetable mixture to the pasta along with the basil, and pour over the dressing. Toss well to combine. Serve. Try not to be too pedantic if you’ve grown any of the vegetables.


You can roast your own tomatoes (toss halved cherry tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, and bake in a single layer at 300 degrees for 1 to 2 hours until they are as soft as you like them – don’t forget the juice), or they are available for purchase at some of the nicer prepared food counters. I actually got mine at Stew Leonard’s, which is a local NY- and CT-based mini-chain of very good supermarkets. Preheat the broiler. Place the pepper under the broiler. As the side facing the heat bubbles and starts to blacken, after about 2 minutes, turn the pepper to the next side. After about 4 turns, the whole pepper should be blistered. Take the pepper out, put it in a bowl, cover it with a dishtowel, and let it steam. After about 5 minutes, take off the dishtowel, and when it’s cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, and pull it apart so you can remove the seeds and core.

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