This traditional recipe for pasta and broccoli rabe hails from the Puglia region of Italy and features the cut of pasta that defines the region – orecchiette – or “little ears”. This dish is a popular one in Italy, specifically in Bari, where you can find women set up on cobblestone streets forming this beautiful pasta by hand and selling it by the kilo. The pasta can be made by hand using only semolina flour and water and skillfully shaped using a knife.
The traditional preparation of this dish uses a favorite Italian vegetable, broccoli rabe, a more bitter sister to traditional broccoli and a surprise ingredient to give a salty bite – a single anchovy filet. The pasta and sauteed broccoli rabe cook together as the flavors mingle and the dish is plated and served with another Italian favorite – pangrattato tostato – toasted, or fried, breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs absorb the flavors of high quality extra virgin olive oil and toast together to form a crunchy and flavorful topping that elevates the finishing taste of this dish.
This dish is hearty and flavorful and perfect for any time of year. I hope that you enjoy it as much as my family always have – buon appetito!
Pugliese Orecchiette con Cime di Rape | Orecchiette and Broccoli Rabe
- 1 lb orecchiette
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, separated
- 4-6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 anchovy filet
- Red Pepper Flakes to taste
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
For the Pasta:
For the Toasted Breadcrumbs:
- Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta. Salt generously.
- Wash your broccoli rabe and trim off the tough ends and discard (about 2 inches from the bottom). Chop the leaves into 2 inch chunks. Set aside in a strainer to drain any excess water.
- When the water is boiling, set a large frying pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When the oil has heated, add garlic, red pepper flakes and the anchovy filet. While this sautés, add your orecchiette to the boiling water.
- Cook the garlic and anchovy down until fragrant and the anchovy breaks down into the oil – it should essentially disintegrate into the oil. When your garlic is slightly brown, about 2-3 minutes, add in the broccoli rabe and salt. Sauté on a medium low heat until the pasta is about 2 minutes undercooked.
- Transfer your pasta to the frying pan with the broccoli rabe using a mesh sieve. Toss to combine together and add about 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan to allow the pasta to finish cooking with the broccoli rabe. Toss and turn the heat to low and allow all the liquid to absorb.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or frying pan, add your breadcrumbs and extra virgin olive oil. Turn to heat to a low setting and mix together and allow breadcrumbs to toast, stirring frequently, about 3-4 minutes.
- When the pasta has cooked to your liking, drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or more to taste) and toss to combine. Plate and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Enjoy immediately.