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Pasta, Cheese and Trees My Mama’s Way

Serves 4

My mom adds garlic and ricotta cheese to this dish. This is the way I had my pasta and trees when I was little – and I still do today!


  • 1 pound broccoli tops
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta such as penne, fusili, cavatappi, elbows or medium shells
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tabelspoons butter, cut up
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped by a grown-up helper (GH)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano cheese


  1. Have a GH put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Separate the broccoli into small trees by pulling them apart. Ask your GH to trim off the woody stems of the trees so you can break them more easily.
  3. Put the trees into a pot and have your GH add enough water just to cover the tops. The GH should bring the water to a boil and add four pinches of salt to the water. You can count for them.
  4. Cook the broccoli for five minutes and have your GH drain it.
  5. When the pasta water boils, have the GH put four more pinches of salt into the pot and add the pasta.
  6. Cook the pasta to al dente (that’s Italian for “done but still with a bite to it”), according to the package instructions.
  7. Pour oil and butter into a deep frying pan and let your GH heat it up over low heat. When the butter melts, your GH can add the garlic and cook it for five minutes. Then, ask your GH to add the broccoli to the garlic.
  8. Ask your GH to drain the pasta and add to the broccoli. Add the ricotta and grated cheese, and have your GH stir it all up in the big frying pan. Add a little salt and pepper and taste the pasta and trees to see how the seasoning is.