Mara's Pasta with Broccoli and Scallop Sauce
Mara Martin is one of the most precious friends Marcella Hazan has gained through cooking. When she and her husband, Maurizio, were teenagers, they borrowed money to buy Da Fiore, an old wine bar in Venice, and proceeded to transform it into one of Italy's most popular seafood restaurants. They had no professional experience but they had taste, cooking's principal root from which all other qualities germinate.
Mara's dishes are rigorously based on the superb local seafood and the preparations are by and large those the understated, light-handed Venetian tradition. She doesn't shrink from updating them, however, when she finds a promising new union of ingredients, as in this combination of local scallops and broccoli from the south of Italy.
Mara has a generous hand with butter, which may distress those who think olive oil is the only cooking medium for Italian seafood. But it is butter that does what needs to be done here, tenderly reconciling the reticent mildness of the thin scallop slices with the sourish, vegetal quality of the broccoli. It is impossible to imagine a seafood sauce with a blend of flavors more smooth or ravishing. Hazan had the pleasure of watching Mara make this dish with Long Island bay scallops in her Watermill kitchen in the Hamptons when she and Maurizio came to visit her one summer. That's when Hazan discovered that Mara had forgetfully omitted in the recipe she had written out for her: thyme. Ah, those great Italian cooks--never question their taste, just take a second look at their recipes.