Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe


Let's make a really tasty Tuesday-night dinner, shall we?

This one is happily simple, and definitely something you can whip up after a long day at work. While it does take a certain palate (so, you say you like chile peppers? Ha. Let's try them paired with the bitterness of rapini!), this comforting pasta dish satisfies during the winter months and you're hankering for some greens.



This dish a pretty traditional one from the Southern Italian region of Apulia (think: heel of the boot). There, this veggie goes by a whole host of names, including raab, rapini, friariélli, broccoletti di rapacime di rapa, and simply cima. 

Sure, there's a lot to make you think it's closely related to broccoli--what, with the color and the little flowering buds reminiscent of our favorite standby, broccoli. While they are both brassicas, that's where the family tree branches. This bitter green with serrated leaves is much more closely related to that pungent turnip than it is to broccoli.  

And we're all the better for it.



No matter what you call it, the green is a perfect blast of bitterness against the simple pasta known as orecchiette--which means "little ear" in reference to the shape of the pasta. 

Domed with ridges on the outside and a smooth bowl on the inside, this is the perfect pasta for scooping up a chile flake or an astringent veggie leaf.


I love broccoli rabe--I love its boldness. This is not a sit-in-the-background kind of vegetable. This is no layering veggie that adds subtlety to a dish. Oh no. This is a robust green that demands attention. Which is why it's perfectly paired with chile peppers and anchovies (and if you want, why not throw in some garlic?). 



Some people blanch their broccoli rabe before sautéing it. The argument is that the water and salt will bring out some of the sweetness.  I say do that only if you want to tame some of the bitterness. I, however, do not want tame. I want lip-puckering sharpness that pairs so well with the creaminess of ricotta salata or parmesan. People, be bold here.



And this dish comes together in about the time it takes you to boil a pot of water and cook the orecchiette to al dente status. So, about 20-25 minutes. Not bad for a Tuesday, huh?







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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Very Liberally Adapted from The Country Cooking of Italy

Yield
3-4 Servings

Ingredients
8 ounces orecchiette
salt
½ cup olive oil
Chile flakes
6 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)
½ lb broccoli rabe, finely chopped
Ricotta Salata, Pecorinio, and/or Parmesan
Toasted bread crumbs

Instructions
1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. When it is boiling, raise the heat to high and add the orecchiette. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 10-12 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the chile flakes and anchovy (if using) and cook until just fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, and cook until wilted, about 5-7 minutes. 

3. When the pasta is ready, drain and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Mix in the greens. season generously with pepper; if necessary, add a little salt. 

4.  Grate or thinly slice some cheese over the top and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

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