It’s been a while since I posted and for the first time, I’m re-doing a recipe. Not because the first version was wrong, but because now I can do it better. Pasta with Rapini was the first recipe I posted nearly 5 years ago and I posted it because it is my absolute favourite dish. Comfort food at it’s best. Simple Italian cooking. And it’s from my Dad’s hometown of Monteleone in Puglia. When I posted it, I had many people comment on how much they love this dish but also others that were excited to try it. And yet, it is still one that I only serve to immediate family – rapini (or broccoli rabe) can be hard to love if they are too bitter.
But mostly I’m posting this recipe re-do because back then, I was afraid to use the word “orecchiette” (the ear-shaped pasta featured in the pictures) and just called it “pasta.” I thought it would turn readers off but now I regret it – that’s the name of the dish and it’s authentic. Back then, I used a food processor to pulse together the garlic and anchovies that help flavour the recipe – partially because it was easier and partially because it was easier to explain. Now, I love doing things by hand, the way they were originally done. I don’t mind my garlic a little chunkier and I do love putting the little bit of work in. Also back then my photography skills were just emerging. I’ve come so far – and yet, am by no means professional – in showcasing the ingredients that find their way into my kitchen and it makes me much happier. This dish needed new photos desperately.
And finally, back then, my readers were mainly friends and family. With thousands of new blog readers a day and more than a thousand getting my recipes by email, it was time to make this favourite recipe a star of the show again. So if you haven’t had the chance to go back in the recipe archives, here’s the opportunity to see one of the best and give it a try. This is an Italian classic and it’s the reason I started this blog.
Orecchiette with Rapini
1 16oz package semolina orecchiette
1 bunch of rapini, coarsely chopped
3 anchovy fillets
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil as needed
grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese to taste
ground hot peppers (if desired)
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Wash, trim and roughly chop your rapini. (You can find out more about trimming and preparing rapini in this post.) Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying or saute pan over medium heat. On a cutting board, mince the garlic and anchovies together. Place the anchovy and garlic grind into the pan and allow it to saute for about 1 minute, until sardines disintegrate and garlic cooks, but does not brown. If you like your pasta spicy, toss in some ground hot peppers to the pan.
Add your washed and chopped rapini to the pan, tossing it with the garlic for 2 minutes, until it begins to wilt. Add in two large scoops of the boiling water from your pot and reduce your heat to medium-low to allow the rapini to cook. In the meantime, now that your water has come to a boil, add salt to the water, then the pasta. Orecchiette take just over 10 minutes to cook, enough time to prepare your rapini broth.
Stir your rapini occassionaly. As the water evaporates from your pan, add one cup of pasta water to the frying pan to continue to wilt and cook the rapini. Allow the rapini to simmer gently until very tender and about 3/4 of the water has evaporated.
Cook the orecchiette until al dente, or even just a bit before. Drain the pasta (reserving some of the pasta water) or scoop it out of the pot using a slotted spoon and add it to the pan with the rapini. The pasta will continue to cook once placed in with the rapini and absorb it’s flavour. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes more, adding more pasta water, as desired, to make a slightly brothy pasta dish.
Remove your pan from the heat and stir in a generous handful of grated Parmiggiano Regiano cheese. Serve immediately, with additional cheese for garnish, as the pasta continues to absorb the broth you’ve created. This dish is also great the next day, but perfect piping hot from the pan.