This (and a piece of fruit) make a fine supper–pretty typical of the kind of thing we like to eat in our house on a weeknight when there’s not much time to make dinner. A quick pasta dish with vegetables that you can whip up in less an 30 minutes. The pasta is orecchiette or “little ears”, a pasta that is typical of Puglia, the region of Italy that my grandpa Fariello came from. Little disks of pasta made from durum wheat and water are pressed with the thumb so they come out concave, giving them the appearance of little ears–well, at least, if you have some imagination they do.
NOTE: Orecchiette can be found at Whole Foods and most Italian food shops. They are, unfortunately, quite expensive (around $6-7 per lb.) as real ones have to be made by hand. There are cheaper imitation orecchiette made by Barilla, but don’t bother! If you can’t find real orecchiette, or would rather not pay that much for pasta, better to use another kind of short pasta like rigatoni or conchiglie. Or you can make them at home: here’s a post and a YouTube video that show you how they’re made. I’ve tried it a few times–it’s not as easy as it looks. Freshly made orecchiette take a lot less time to cook, so boil the broccoli rabe for 10 minutes or so before adding them to the pot.
While orecchiette is most commonly paired with broccoli rabe, you can use the same recipe using cauliflower instead of broccoli rabe (in which case, add a little chopped parsley for color). They can also be sauced with ricotta cheese softened with a wooden spoon or a lightly cooked marinara-type tomato sauce into which a dab of ricotta is mixed at the last minute. I’ve also heard of (but never made) orecchiette with clams or mussels. Since orecchiette have recently become ‘chic’, you’ll also find all sorts of fancy recipes for orecchiette around with goat cheese and asparagus and such. Orecchiette are typically cucina povera and I find such extravagances absolutely absurd.