Chef's Note: This pasta dish from Puglia is my fallback position, the one-pot dinner I turn to when I’m too tired and hungry to contemplate something more ambitious.
I have read many recipes for orecchiette with broccoli rabe—it is Puglia’s signature dish—and watched Pugliese cooks make it. Typically, in a nod to efficiency,
they boil the vegetable along with the pasta, but that always results in soggy broccoli rabe. The dish is vastly improved if you boil the rabe first,
squeeze out excess moisture, and then reheat it with olive oil and seasonings. Some recipes instruct you to remove the thick stems of broccoli rabe, but
the thick stems are tender. It’s the thin, stringy stems that can be tough.
- 1 ½ to 2 pounds broccoli rabe
- 1 pound orecchiette or spaghetti
- 6 tablespoons California Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch of hot pepper flakes
- 6 to 8 ounces hot Italian sausage, preferably with fennel seed
- Freshly grated aged pecorino cheese (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. To trim the broccoli rabe, remove any stems that feel tough. (The thick stems are usually more tender than the thin ones.) Trim the ends of any stems that look dry, then slit any stems that are thicker than a pencil so
they cook more quickly. Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling water and cook until the stems are just tender, about 3 minutes Using tongs,
transfer the broccoli rabe to a sieve and cool quickly under cold running water. (Keep the cooking water at a boil.) Drain well,
then squeeze gently to remove excess water. Chop coarsely.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, put the California Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper flakes in a large skillet.
Remove the sausage from its casting if necessary and add
it to the cold skillet. Warm over moderately low heat, breaking up the sausage with a fork, and cook just until the sausage loses most of its pinkness.
Add the broccoli rabe and season with salt to taste. Stir to coat with the seasonings and reheat gently.
Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot over low heat. Add the sauce and toss well, moistening with some of the
reserved pasta water as needed. Divide among warm bowls and serve immediately. Pass the cheese at the table for those who want it.
Four Seasons Pasta (Chronicle Books, 2004) by Janet Fletcher. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.