Orecchiette with broccoli rabe

Orecchiette ai broccoletti (Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe)

In Fall, pasta, primi piatti, Puglia, Winter by Frank Fariello27 Comments

A quick pasta dish with vegetables that you can whip up in less an 30 minutes, 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—orecchiette with broccoli rabe. 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 apply some imagination.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 400g (14 oz) orecchiette (see Notes)
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (about 400g/14 oz), roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers, or a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Directions

Boil the orecchiette and broccoli rabe together in well salted boiling water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, lightly sauté the garlic, chili pepper and anchovy fillets in olive oil. Don’t allow the garlic or the red pepper to brown too much or it will turn bitter. (If using the red pepper flakes, add them only a few moments before you’re done with the sauté, as they burn very quickly.) Turn off the heat.

When the orecchiette and broccoli rabe are done, transfer them and the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon into the seasoned oil. (For a more ‘refined’ dish, you can remove the garlic and chili pepper but I never bother.) Simmer everything together, mixing as you go, until the pasta and broccoli rabe are well seasoned by the oil. The broccoli rabe should have more or less disintegrated by now into a kind of ‘sauce’. (This is definitely not nouvelle cuisine!) Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste, if need be.

Serve your orecchiette with broccoli rabe piping hot, drizzling a bit more olive oil on top of each portion if you like. This is not a dish that calls for any kind of grated cheese.

Enjoy!

Notes

Once a rarity, these days fresh orecchiette can be found at better supermarkets and many Italian food shops. They are, unfortunately, quite expensive as real ones have to be made by hand. You can find imported dried orecchiette, also quite expensive, but quite good if thoroughly cooked. You can also find cheap imitation orecchiette—basically regular pasta secca cut into a concave shape to look something like orecchiette, but don’t bother with them; if you can’t find real orecchiette, or would rather not pay that much for pasta, better to use another kind of short pasta that can hold the broccoli rabe, like rigatoni or conchiglie (shells). Or, for the ultimate experience, you can make your own; fellow blogger Michelle Capobianco of Majella Home Cooking just wrote a superb post on making orecchiette at home with great instructions.

Dried orecchiette and broccoli rabe take about the same time to cook, generally about 10 minutes or perhaps a bit more, depending on the thickness and age of the pasta. Freshly made orecchiette take less time, only about 5 minutes or so, so boil the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes or so before adding the pasta to the pot. If you have some extra time, some people like to boil the broccoli rabe separately, draining and adding it to the seasoned oil, then boiling the pasta in the same pot as the broccoli rabe. The water will lend more flavor to the pasta that way, and you can better control how well cooked your vegetable is. Personally, I find the difference in taste and texture is minimal, not enough to justify the extra time it takes.

You can use the same method for cooking orecchiette with broccoli rabe using cauliflower, 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.

Post scriptum. By the way, broccoletti is the Roman word for broccoli rabe. Since I lived in Rome, that’s the word that always comes to mind, but in Puglia itself, orecchiette with broccoli rabe is orecchiette con cime di rape (literally ‘turnip tops’) and that’s the more common term among Italian-Americans as well.

Orecchiette ai broccoletti (Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Orecchiette ai broccoletti (Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe)

Ingredients

  • 400g (14 oz) orecchiette
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (about 400g/14 oz), roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers, or a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Boil the orecchiette and broccoli rabe together in well salted boiling water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, lightly sauté the garlic, chili pepper and anchovy fillets in olive oil. Turn off the heat.
  3. When the orecchiette and broccoli rabe are done, transfer them and the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon into the seasoned oil.
  4. Simmer everything together, mixing as you go, until the pasta and broccoli rabe are well seasoned by the oil. The broccoli rabe should partially disintegrate into a kind of ‘sauce’.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste, if need be. Serve piping hot, drizzling a bit more olive oil on top of each portion if you like. This is not a dish that calls for any kind of grated cheese.
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Frank FarielloOrecchiette ai broccoletti (Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe)

Comments

  1. B

    Everything on this site is simple but looks amazing… really is true that less is more.
    I’m loving the fresh flavours that are always shown in all the recipe’s here.

    1. Author
      Frank

      Thanks so much, B. And welcome to the site. It’s true, our aspiration is to feature simple, easy and delicious dishes. Enjoy!

  2. Michelle - Majella Home Cooking

    Thanks for the shout-out, Frank! Orecchiette – fresh or dried – is probably my favorite pasta shape. They’re also terrific with a sauce of ceci and vegetables. The little ears cradle the ceci perfectly.

  3. domenicacooks

    Frank, this is one of my favorites–my husband’s, too. We were in Puglia in summer ’12 and were so looking forward to eating orecchiette with broccoletti. But guess what ~ no one was serving it! Only orecchiette with tomato sauce. The reason? Broccoletti were not in season. I don’t usually put anchovies in mine, but I love that idea and will try it. Grazie, D

    1. Author
      Frank

      That’s what I like about Italy. They still believe in seasons. I was at the supermarket this morning in mid November and what did I see, prominently displayed as I walked in? Asparagus and strawberries. Ugh….

  4. Due Spaghetti

    A perfect, timeless dish. We called them broccoletti in our household in Rome, unless you were talking to Stefano’s Nonna Pierina, in which case it was cime di rapa. Ours also usually have sausage in them.

  5. Adri

    Well here is classic for certain, and Frank, yours looks great. I always enjoy your site. You are like a compendium of the real deal, la vera Italiana. There’s no nonsense here at Memorie di Angelina, no “frills”, no “my take on this or that.” You showcase the food has sustained the Italian people through the years, through good times and bad. I just love visiting.

    1. Author
      Frank

      Thanks so much, Adri. Indeed, I like to stick with the tried and true. Just my nature, I guess… as you say, if it’s been good enough for countless generations, it’s good enough for me.

  6. Nuts about food

    I love orecchiette with cime di rapa or any green vegetable come to think of it. I also love orecchiette with ‘sugo crudo': chopped raw tomatoes, olives, chili peppers and lots of ricotta salata and olive oil.

    1. Author
      Frank

      Sounds fabulous! I’ll have to try it when tomatoes are back in season (or perhaps before that, it sounds too good to wait… )

  7. Leonardo Ciampa

    There is no vegetable that has more different regional names! In Naples they call them friarielli. I have heard cima di rapa, rape, rapini, broccoletti — but NOT broccolini, which is something else. Whatever you call them … A rose by any other name … What I’m trying to say it: they are my favorite!!! One more thing: of course in Puglia the classic combo is broccoletti, salsicce, aglio. In Gaeta, they substitute the salsicce for shrimp!

  8. Paulie

    I make this dish using fresh ground Italian hot sausage and leave out the anchovy, but put extra garlic and crushed pepperoncini with mezza rigatoni. I am going to try your version – we love this dish!

    1. Author
      Frank

      Tante grazie, Chiara! Anch’io sono rimasto contento della foto. Pian piano sto migliorando…

  9. madonnadelpiatto

    One of my favorite recipes Frank, we make this all the time in the winter. Recently I have had a few people who can’t eat fish and I have substituted the anchovy with a little guanciale. It’s also yummy but the version with anchovy is the real thing!

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