Don’t be scared of cooking the broccoli here until truly soft; it doesn’t take long and, as you want it to form a sauce for the pasta, this is not the time for fancy al dente vegetables. It is also the authentic Italian way, when using broccoli as part of a pasta dressing. If you are after a rich sauce, include the mascarpone, but, if you prefer a lighter pasta, feel free to leave it out.
Blanch the broccoli in plenty of boiling water for 3 minutes or so. Drain in a colander and refresh under ice-cold water to preserve its colour. Drain again and roughly chop.
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, put the butter and garlic into a cold frying pan, place over a medium heat and cook for a minute or so, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.
Add the broccoli, cover with a lid or baking sheet and cook very gently for a few minutes. The broccoli should be very soft and yield easily to a wooden spoon pressed on it.
Stir in the mascarpone, if using, and blue cheese and heat through to form a sauce. Season with salt to taste and lots of pepper. Stir in the pine nuts.
Drain the pasta, but don’t be too precious about draining off every drop of water.
Tip the badly drained pasta straight into the broccoli pan and mix well. Serve in warmed bowls, with vegetarian pasta cheese grated over, if you like.
The New Vegetarian by Alice Hart is published by Square Peg at £25.
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