The Classical Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) Orecchiette is a typical dish from Puglia, in the South of Italy.
A few simple ingredients give the plate a savory taste. It is a quick preparation, unless you want to make the fresh pasta as well! You can find the Broccoli Rape, also known as Rapini, during fall and winter season.
This Italian recipe requires a special durum wheat pasta called “orecchiette“. Literally it means “small ears” because of its shape. The orecchiette are handmade in Puglia, and you can taste them fresh or dried.
The Broccoli Rabe is closely related to the turnips and mustards, and like turnip and mustard, its leaves have a bitter taste.
To reduce the bitterness, cook them while keeping the leafy parts of the vegetable intact, and the florets in particular. Moreover, this dish is a healthy choice as well. Indeed, the Rapini are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, iron, and antioxidants.
The Classical Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) Orecchiette is a simple and tasty plate.
Pasta, broccoli rabe, anchovies, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil: only simple ingredients. Just add a sprinkle of bread crumbs sauté with EVO for a successful plate!
- 2 lbs Broccoli Rabe (aka Rapini)
- 3 cups Orecchiette Fresh Pasta
- 2 anchovies in salt (or in Olive Oil)
- 1 slice garlic
- bread crumbs, EVO, salt, chili pepper to taste
1- Remove the hard parts of the Broccoli Rabe, and keep only the florets and the softer leaves;
2- Heat a pot of water to boil, add salt to taste;
3- Clean 2 anchovies from the salt by soaking them in water for 10 minutes;
3- In a pan, add the EVO, the garlic, and the anchovies. Low the heat to minimum and let them cook until the anchovies melt. Turn off the heat and remove the garlic. Add chili peppers to taste;
4- In a different pan, sauté the bread crumbs with EVO until they brown;
5- In the boiling water pot, cook the Broccoli Rabe for a few minutes (2/3), then add the pasta together with the vegetables. Keep a small cup of the boiling water on the side.
6- Drain the pasta when "al dente" and the vegetables, then sauté them on the pan with the EVO, garlic, anchovies, and chili peppers. If the pasta dries too much while sautéing, add some water you saved from the boiling water
The Broccoli Rabe Orecchiette recipe history
The tradition comes from the medieval period, between the XII and XIII century, during the Normans domination in South Italy.
We know that there was a pasta made out of durum wheat and water, round shaped with a small hole made by the pasta maker with the thumb. Once the pasta was ready, they used to dry it to preserve it for a longer time. They use to pack the pasta also in the boats during long oversea crossings.
The pasta was so precious that often it was part of the noble daughters dowry: that is the way the tradition of Orecchiette spread out.
Traditionally, we prepare the Broccoli Rabe Orecchiette over a big plate in the table center with a big spoon to serve. It is a typical dish to share with family and friends.
After you distribute the pasta on the plates, sprinkle some bread crumbs toasted with EVO.
Those crumbs are called “the poor’s cheese“. Since the poor people could not afford to buy and eat cheese, they invented something similar to grated cacio cheese. They toasted bread crumbs with olive oil so that they have the illusion of having some cheese on top of the orecchiette.
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