Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Orecchiette con le cime di rapa - R.E.R. part 2 (ridiculously easy recipes)

I'm still here. It has been a crazy few days, as you know from my previous post. Life these days is all about interviews, new nannies (please note the plural), biking in a sweaty haze from work to day care and back, guilt pangs. Cooking is not a priority these days. I did get around to some baking on the week end, but I have not had time to download the pictures yet. Forgive me.

Luckily I have that emergency file I mentioned the other day. This almost seemed too simple and obvious a recipe to post, but it is a great dish, a fantastic way to cook healthy greens and, most of all, a typical dish from the Apulia region of Italy many of you may not be familiar with.

Orecchiette literally means "little ears". The small ear-shaped disks are thinner in the center and have a rough surface. The shape allows the pasta to dry better, making it easier to store and transport in the old days. It seems that this pasta, made with just durum wheat, salt and water, originates from the south of France and was brought over to Apulia during the Anjou domination in the 13th century. The most typical way to cook orecchiette is with cime di rapa, broccoli rabe (also known as rapini). This leafy green has a bitter taste and is rich in vitamin C and A.

This is what farmers' in Apulia ate for centuries, when little else was available. With six ingredients (or eight if you are making the orecchiette yourself and you count water as an ingredient), the peasants working the land sat down to a feast fit for kings. How about being king/queen for a day? Here is what you need.

a large bunch of broccoli rabe
approx. 6 anchovy filets
a few garlic cloves
extra virgin olive oil 
500gr. orecchiette
1 or more chilli peppers

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Wash the broccoli rabe, discarding the tougher stems and leaves, and tear or cut into smaller pieces. When the water is boiling throw in a handful of salt and the broccoli rabe. You can also skip this step and directly sauté the rapini in the pan, but the point is to use the rapini-infused water to cook the orecchiette in. Pour plenty of olive oil in a pan, add the chilli in pieces and brown your garlic. Then dissolve the anchovy filets in the hot, aromatic oil. When cooked, take the broccoli rabe out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and throw it into the pan, mixing it with the sauce. When you have drained the pasta, do the same. Serve immediately with grated cheese (parmesan, pecorino, ricotta salata - whatever you have handy) and a drizzle of olive oil.



  1. I love this recipe for its simplicity and how it really shows the ingredients off :) I was recently shown some cime di rapa by the amazing chef Stefano Manfredi and now here I see your recipe! :o

  2. Lorraine - And I had to laugh when I read Mr. NQN ordered orecchiette on date night, just after I had posted this!

  3. Your absolutely right, it is a ridiculously easy but delicious recipe. We love rapini in our family, and this my favourite way of serving it, with little orechiette pasta.

  4. Hi Anna! Yup, when the ingredients are good and fresh, even the simplest of recipes is delicious.


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