Once upon a time in the 1960s, there was a family of six in a snowstorm. The father, who did much of the cooking, didn’t know what he would be making for dinner, since the pantry was all but bare. The only things he found were some leftover ham, some pasta, and a few heads of broccoli. And thus, a family legend was born.
That was the story of Ham and Broccoli Pasta growing up in my family. The father in question was my grandfather, who was an accomplished cook in his own right. Ever since then, it became a staple in our family, beloved by everyone. In fact, this was the dish that first inspired the “seconds race” that developed among me and my brothers and led to quite a few bad food habits I still have. You see, who ever could eat their dinner first could get more and the other brothers would miss out. We loved eating this dish that much!
With that in mind, I’ve been trying to share that love with my own boys, without much success. The problem is, of course, that we can’t eat penne pasta that the original calls for. I keep trying to tweak the recipe so that they can understand the appeal but gluten-free pasta isn’t the same and replacing the pasta with veggies isn’t very appealing. Even spaghetti squash tends to produce too much liquid in the end. But I think I’ve finally figured it out. It looks and tastes like my childhood!
There’s really something about the saltiness of the ham paired with the broccoli that makes a really special combination for me. There is no more perfect dish in my mind.
And yes there is cheese. And yes, not everyone eats it. You’ll still love the dish without it, but it does perfectly accent these flavors. If you have it, we think you should use it.
This is also becomes a pretty fast dish to make as well if you use the quick steaming method for the spaghetti squash (put it in the microwave on a plate with some water, then microwave on high for about 12 minutes. Don’t worry, microwaves are very safe.). You could get this on the table in only 30 minutes or so! And since both broccoli and ham keep in the fridge for quite a while, this always seemed to be my mom’s favorite fast, last minute dish.
- 1 Spaghetti Squash
- 1 lb Ham Steak, diced
- 2 lbs Broccoli heads, cut into florets
- 1/3 C olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/3 C white wine
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 C mozzarella or Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Roast spaghetti squash in halves on a rimmed baking sheet with water covering the bottom for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Steam broccoli florets to al dente, about 7 minutes.
- Heat oil in medium sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Saute onions and garlic until translucent.
- Add ham, salt, pepper, and paprika. Saute for two minutes.
- Add white wine. Simmer over medium low for 5 minutes. Add Broccoli and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Scoop out spaghetti squash "noodles" into serving bowl.
- Pour sauce over squash and toss with cheese and parsley.
Now in later years my grandfather got bored with the traditional ham and broccoli and started making a more refined version of this dish with prosciutto and asparagus. It’s definitely a more adult taste, but I still return to the broccoli and ham. It’s a very impressive, pleasing dish in this form and I’m certain everyone can appreciate. It’s please young boys for years, after all!