Cavatelli with Broccoli al Limone, Traditional Dish from Puglia

Cavatelli with Broccoli al Limone, Traditional Dish from Puglia

When I was first starting out in my professional life after graduating from college — long before I ever became a travel writer — I worked with people who had been victims of violent crime in Newark, New Jersey. To say the least, it was an odd first job to look back on. Before some beneficial developments occurred in Newark in the late 1980s and 1990s, the city was still a rather hard place to live at that time.

First-generation, second-generation, and even longer generations of immigrants from all around Latin America, Europe, and Asia have made Northern New Jersey their home. And metropolitan communities like as Newark, Bloomfield, Livingston, and the Oranges in Essex County are extremely diversified; all of this contributes to the fact that the cuisine in these neighborhoods is both tasty and genuine.

Working in the city was great overall, but my favorite part was definitely the cuisine. There were (and still are) some amazing ethnic communities all throughout Newark, with excellent and genuine cuisine. This was particularly true in the primarily Portuguese portion of Newark that is known as Down Neck, or the Ironbound. The city of Newark alone is home to a wide variety of restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines, including Portuguese paella and Italian peasant food, Korean-owned salad bars serving lunch by the pound, and southern soul food diners, dumpling shops, and Portuguese paella.

But the first time my coworkers brought me to Emilia’s Deli, a little hole-in-the-wall café where visitors would sit at communal wooden tables and call out their orders to Emilia Spalliero herself who was usually behind the stove, is something that I will never forget.

She would then ladle out your order, and by the time you helped yourself to a drink or water from the refrigerator and a bit of fresh bread from the basket, your lunch would already be waiting for you to dig in and enjoy it. The specialties of the day were often written by hand on a tiny board, and there were typically two or three enormous pots on the stove containing meals such as fish stew, Italian wedding soup, and pasta with red sauce.

However, she always put broccoli and cavatelli on the table. Even though the dish’s place of origin is close to Puglia, which is where my grandmother’s family is from, I had never tasted it while I was growing up, so I decided to give it a go. Dishes prepared with cavatelli and orecchiette are particularly well-known in that area.) After that, I made sure to order it each time we returned to the restaurant.

Because I missed the meal so much after getting married and moving away, I spent years honing the recipe from memory after I had moved away. The unfortunate truth is that Emilia’s Deli no longer exists; in its place are now condominiums, and Emilia herself has died away. This comes about as near as I can recall to her cavatelli with broccoli, with the possible addition of a few more drops of lemon for good measure.

If you’ve never had Cavatelli with Broccoli before, you should definitely give it a go. I can assure you that you’ve never experienced anything like this before. A cozy Italian meal is created by coating the cavatelli with a combination of tender broccoli and lemon. Although dried pasta may be used, the cavatelli that can be found in the freezer department of the grocery store is a far better option.

Cavatelli And Broccoli


One diced onion of medium size.

2 fresh garlic cloves, minced to a fine consistency

if you want it spicy, add 1 teaspoon of pepperoncino (crushed red pepper).

One whole fresh head of broccoli, separated into about one-inch florets. You may use frozen or pre-cut florets, but you will need to chop each one into pieces that are 1 inch long. Fresh is always preferable. Make careful to pluck the broccoli’s main stem and chop it into thin discs before cooking.

The juice of a single freshly squeezed lemon

2 and a half cups of chicken broth

One bag of frozen cavatelli weighing 12 ounces in total (in the frozen food section)

One tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped, from Italy

One spoonful of cornstarch will be used to thicken the sauce.

Garnish: grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano cheese, and pepperoncino (crushed red pepper)


Start boiling water for the pasta and keep it at a low simmer while you finish preparing the sauté mixture.

Put the broccoli in a dish that can be heated in the microwave, add a few tablespoons of water to the dish, and steam it for four to five minutes using the Fresh Veggie setting or the High power option. You want the broccoli to be tender while retaining its vibrant green color (not al dente, or brown on the edges). Set aside.

The onion and garlic should be cooked until they are tender. If you choose, you may add some crushed red pepper to the mixture.

In the pan, pour in 2 cups of chicken stock, saving 1/2 cup for the conclusion of the cooking process. After adding the lemon juice and bringing the mixture to a boil, decrease the heat to maintain a moderate simmer.

Prepare cavatelli from frozen in accordance with the package’s directions.

Approximately two minutes before the cavatelli are completed cooking, add the cornstarch to the remaining half cup of chicken stock. Ensure that the stock is cold and not hot, and stir with a fork until smooth. After adding the cornstarch mixture, bring the chicken stock to a low boil in order to thicken it. Bring the heat down to a gentle simmer.

After the cavatelli has finished cooking, remove them using a spider strainer one ladle at a time, and then add them to the chicken stock that has been reduced and thickened. It is not necessary to rinse with water! Stir cavatelli until coated.

After stirring in the steamed broccoli, the whole mixture should be cooked for several minutes over low heat in order to enable the flavors to combine. Olive oil should be drizzled on top. If you choose, you may sprinkle some shredded cheese on top, as well as crushed red pepper.

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