Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
It has been pouring rain in Rome this past week, students have been protesting in the streets against the school budget cuts that Berlusconi’s government is proposing. Violence broke out in Piazza Navona when a group a neo-fascists arrived with a truckload of billy clubs wrapped with Italian flags, now the papers are saying that students from the left instigated the violence. These are grim times here in Italy, as in the rest of the world, and it is hard to only talk about food in times like these.
But… I don’t want to to get too political in my blog, so I will skip to another grim subject, with all of the rain and the libeccio (the south-west wind) the boats didn’t go out to sea this week, therefore leaving the markets without any fish. I can deal with that, there are other options for dinner.
The nice thing about this season are all of fall’s wonderful greens and the markets are full of them. Broccoletti or broccoli rabe are a wondeful bitter green that are great on their own, sauteed in olive oil, garlic and hot pepper. They are also wonderful over pasta, specifically orecchiette, which is a dish that originates in Puglia but also stretches into Basilicata.
One of my goals is to learn to make pasta, I’ve observed my mother-in-law a few times, but need to learn to do it on my own, and orecchiette will be my first venture into the world of fresh pasta, all you need is a thumb and the right ingredients, that doesn’t seem too daunting.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
- 1 large bunch of broccoli rabe
- 1 large salted anchovy (you can add more for a stronger flavor)
- 2 cloves or garlic, peeled, left whole
- 1 dried peperoncino (small chili pepper)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lb of fresh orecchiette pasta (you can also find dried orecchiette, which also work well)
- water for boiling broccoli rabe and pasta
- salt for pasta water
- hot pepper oil
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Clean the broccoli rabe, removing the thick stems but preserving the leaves and the broccoli florets.
When water starts to boil transfer the broccoli rabe to the pot and let boil for about 8 minutes.
Heat oil in a wide saucepan over medium-high heat and add anchovy, garlic and peperoncino. The anchovy should disintegrate into the oil. If the broccoli has not boiled for long enough and the garlic is sizzling, lower the heat on the pan to avoid burning the garlic until the broccoli is transferred to the pan.
Transfer the broccoli rabe with a large slotted spoon from the pot to the pan. Don’t pour out the green water, you want to keep it to cook the pasta with. Sauté the broccoli in olive oil and break up the leaves into small pieces with the tip of wooden spoon, if the broccoli starts to dry out, lower the heat and add small amounts of water.
Once the water starts to boil again for the pasta add a small handful of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
When the pasta is perfectly al dente, turn up the heat on the sauce and drain the pasta. Without shaking all of the water out of the colander pour the pasta into the pan and toss it with the sauce. This allows for the pasta to cook a little longer in the sauce and to absorb the flavor.
Make hot pepper oil available on the table for people to drizzle on their pasta to add some extra heat.