orecchiette con cime di rapa/pasta with rapini


I used to prepare this dish as often as it might occur to either one of us, but the last time must have been before I began this blog, over six years ago.   I’ve had the package of dry orecchiette (‘little ears’) in the cupboard for a few weeks, but it was only last night that I could take advantage of a convergence of this excellent pasta, some spring Greenmarket broccoli rabe, and no dinner plans which could forestall our enjoyment of my favorite version of the Puglian favorite, orecchiette con cime di rapa.

It was as delicious as each of us had remembered.  There was one snag however, although one not related to the taste.  I have the willful habit of wanting to incorporate as much of a vegetable as I can when cooking it, and in this case I would have been better advised to discard some of the rapini stems, or at least remove them and cook them a little longer than the rest of the greens.  I’ve never encountered this problem before with this vegetable, but let’s just say that in a couple of cases last night the larger pieces were more than chewy.  After we finished dinner Barry proffered, “Stems are the gristle of the vegetable world.”.

Twenty-five years ago I discovered the recipe I still use, in the tall volume, ‘Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook’.  The book itself is indeed beautiful, as are the recipes.  It’s also a wonderful tour through a magnificent culture, one with which Barry I paired our actual Italian tours in the years after I acquired the book.

  • half a pound of Benedetto Cavalieri ‘Single Orecchiette’ and half a pound of broccoli rabe, bottom stems removed and the rest of the vegetable roughly chopped, boiled together in a large pot until the pasta was al dente, about a ladleful of the pasta water reserved before draining, then tossed into a separate pot in which 3 garlic cloves and half of a dried red chile pepper had been heated until the garlic had colored lightly, everything (including a judicious amount of the reserved pasta water) tossed for a couple of minutes to blend the flavors and the ingredients, before being served, sprinkled on top with half of a cup of fresh breadcrumbs browned earlier (this time I used some of a Balthazar Multi-Grain boule), along with a pinch of salt, in a little olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian white, Saladini Pilastri Falerio 2013
  • the music was Ernest Chausson’s ‘Poème de l’amour et de la mer