Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is a bitter green that comes into season in autumn. It is a member of the turnip family and you will find it at selected greengrocers in bundles of large leaves with broccoli-like flower heads opening into small yellow flowers. It’s earthy and rustic – a peasant-style Puglia dish to get you through the day. In Puglia the main meal is lunch at around 1:30. Stores close at 1. After lunch they take a nap (penneca) since nothing is open anyway again until 6pm. Carmen who does my nails at her home always asks what i made for lunch and we talk about food. She gave me her way of doing this classic Puglia dish and went home and made it as it sounded so good!
- 400g cime di rapa or 1 pound
- 200g pasta of your choice (the tradition is orecchiette) I go veggie heavy and pasta light and make up for it all with the fresh pressed olive oil I helped produce.
- Olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- half cup fresh bread crumbs – at the bread counter in Italy (i make crumbs out of stale bread and keep in freezer)
- 4 anchovies (optional but they make the flavor jump!)
- Pinch dried chilli flakes or preferably a whole dry chili broken in half and tossed in
- Parmesan, grated, to serve
- Salt & pepper
- Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Wash the Cime di Rapa well, slice the lower part of the stalks into 2-3 cm pieces, keep the leafy tops whole. Drop the greens into the water. You will add the pasta to the same pot when the Cime is almost done and a knife slices easily through it
- Meanwhile gently heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan (must be big enough for the finished dish) and slowly cook the garlic until fragrant but not burning. Add the bread crumbs and dried chilli, cook gently for 2 minutes until the crumbs are toasted and golden. Cut the heat and save for later
- Drain the pasta and greens together when the pasta is still al dente (it will keep cooking as you finish) keeping a cup of the water for later in case it’s too dry. Dump the drained mixture into the bread crumb pan, add the anchovies if using and stir it all together fast while on medium heat adding some of the pasta water if needed and drizzle of good olive oil. Serve piled into shallow bowls and finish with plenty of grated Parmesan and more good olive oil. I love fresh cracked black pepper on everything but in Italy you don’t put chilli peppers and black pepper together ever! But in the end I do what I want and like.