Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Garlic Toasted Bread Crumbs (Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa)

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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!

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Pasta with broccoli, anchovy, garlic and hot pepper – my version of orecchiette con cime di rapa

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After drooling over Italian recipes of orecchiette and cime di rapa (broccoli rabe) I was craving it and wanted to have it today! So I made do with what I can get here which is regular broccoli and fusilli pasta. I am not going to spend 4 dollars on a tiny bunch of broccoli rabe of which I would need 4! I even used Manchego cheese instead of Parmigiano and it was great!

Fusilli with broccoli,anchovy, garlic, hot pepper and evoo (extra virgin olive oil)

1 lb broccoli crowns
2-4 anchovies or to taste
2 garlic cloves squashed
1 dried hot pepper (stem cut off) or a pinch of red pepper flakes
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
half pound fusilli pasta
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese

boil broccoli in salted water for about 4 -5 minutes until tender.
Remove with a slotted spoon and cook the pasta in the same water until very al dente- 2 minutes less than package says usually. It will continue to cook and It also gets cooked more in the skillet.
in a skillet heat the evoo until hot, add the whole garlic, anchovies and hot pepper.
stir and squish the anchovies until they melt into the sauce.
Add the cooked broccoli and stir until well combined.
Taste for saltiness and adjust if needed- if anchovies were used you won’t need salt.
Add the cooked pasta and stir, adding pasta water if it dries up.
alternate adding the grated cheese with pasta water until you have a nice creamy sauce.
serve immediately with more cheese if desired
buon appetito!