This slightly-soupy rapini pasta comes from my father’s hometown of Monteleone in the region of Puglia. We first had it when we visited there, driving in from my mom’s hometown in Calabria. Coming up from the south to the higher altitudes put a chill in our beach-braised bodies and our relatives welcomed us with a warming bowl of pasta rapini. We’ve made it quite frequently ever since, especially during the cold winters here in Canada. I have not been surprised to find similar recipes in some cookbooks, including the Silver Spoon. For your reference, rapini also go by the fancier name “broccoli rabe.”
Pasta Rapini (a la Monteleonese)
1 16oz package semolina orecchiette
2 bunches of rapini, coarsely chopped (in this recipe I used ones I had previously blanched and frozen)
3 anchovy fillets
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil as needed
grated parmesan cheese or parmesan/peccorino blend to taste
hot peppers (if desired)
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Place garlic, sardines and a tablespoon of olive oil into a mini chopper, with ground hot pepper as desired. Chop to fine grind. Place into a large frying pan with 2 to 3 more tablespoons of olive oil. Allow to cook, on medium, until sardines disintegrate and garlic cooks, but does not brown. (You can also place minced garlic and whole sardines directly into the pan instead of using a chopper, but your simmering time of these ingredients will take longer. I like to grind the ingredients to get the dish made quickly after work.)
In the meantime, once water has come to a boil, add salt, then pasta. Cook until al dente, or even just a bit before. The pasta will continue to cook once placed in with the rapini.
Chop rapini and add to frying pan, tossing with the ingredients already there. From the pasta pot, add approximately one cup of pasta water to the frying pan to wilt and cook the rapini. Allow the rapini to simmer gently until very tender and about 3/4 of the water has evaporated.
Once pasta is cooked, at al dente, drain (reserving some of the pasta water) and add to the pan with the rapini. Combine and add 1/2 to 1 cup pasta water to create a bit of broth/sauce fo the pasta to simmer in. Stir and allow to cook together for five minutes.
Shut of heat and stir in a generous handful of grated parmesan. Serve while piping hot (this is usually how I burn my tongue). This dish disappears quickly and if you are lucky enough to actually have leftovers, makes a great work lunch.
In the end, it really ends up looking like this….