Orecchiette with Rapini

This dish is known in Italian as Pasta con le cime di rapa and is a very popular dish in Southern Italy (Puglia) and Sicily. That link will send you to my former room-mate’s blog, who initially introduced me to the dish, originally wrote this recipe, and whose instructions I used in this recipe, with a few changes of my own.

  • 2 bunches rapini (aka broccoli rabe). If unavailable use broccolini, or a mixture of broccoli and spinach, chard and/or turnip greens.
  • 1 lb. orecchiette, preferably artisinal
  • extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • several cloves of garlic, minced
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 – 2 C of hard cheese: parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano (preferred), finely grated. I usually do a mix of the two.
  • fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • kosher/sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 C breadcrumbs, toasted
  • zest of 1 lemon

Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil. Rinse the broccoli rabe and cut off the harder, thicker portions of the stem, keeping the leaves,  florets, and tender stems. Cut the greens crosswise into short ribbons an inch wide. When the water boils, empty in the box of pasta and cook until pasta is barely al dente. Half-way through the pasta’s cooking time, add in the rapini. If you like your greens softer, you can add them in earlier, even before you add in the pasta. I prefer mine still crunchy to soft.

Meanwhile, mince the garlic. Sauté on low in a few tablespoons of olive oil with the red pepper flakes, fresh cracked pepper, and kosher salt until the garlic’s and pepper flakes’ flavours are released. (Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter!)

Mix the breadcrumbs with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and toast in a small frying pan over medium heat, mixing often until evenly toasted. Once it starts to toast, it goes very quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on it!  Allow to cool slightly, season with a little kosher salt, and then mix in the lemon zest.

As soon as the pasta is done, drain and mix in the garlic, red pepper and olive oil, along with a few handfuls of cheese and the salt and pepper. Add more olive oil and cheese until the pasta is nicely coated. Serve with yet more cheese, parsley, toasted lemon breadcrumbs, and olive oil.

This dish is great with a nice white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or even a mild Chardonnay.

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