Orecchiette is the prestigious pasta of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. The name means "little ears," and the indentations in the pasta catch the sauce. The rim of the orecchiette, a bit thicker than the depressed center, stays firm when you cook it, creating an interesting textural contrast as you eat.
The traditional Pugliese way to eat orecchiette is with broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, in a simple sauce seasoned with hot peppers and anchovies. It has become one of my favorite meals.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile pepper, chopped, or hot red pepper flakes,
preferably Marash (see page 58 of book), to taste, plus more for serving
3 anchovy fillets
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 pound orecchiette
1 small bunch broccoli rabe or dandelion greens
(4 ounces without tough stems), coarsely chopped
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano pepper or pepper flakes and sauté, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup of hot water from the other pot and the anchovy fillets to the onion mixture. (They'll melt into the sauce, so there's no need to chop them.)
When the water in the first pot boils, add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the orecchiette, stir well, and cook until the pasta is almost al dente.
Meanwhile, add the broccoli rabe or dandelion greens to the onion mixture. Stir, add a pinch of salt and another 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the pasta is done. Add more of the pasta cooking water, if necessary, to keep the greens "saucy."
Drain the pasta and add it to the greens. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Add a little more olive oil, some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper. Serve in warm bowls with a dollop of ricotta cheese and additional hot pepper flakes on the side.
Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating
How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta,
Chocolate, and Much More
by Ari Weinzweig
Paperback; 512 pages
ISBN: 0395926165; $19.95
Hardcover; 512 pages
ISBN: 0618411089, $35.00
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created March 2004
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