I am not a fan of broccoli unless it is rendered into near-unrecognizable form. That’s why I like this classic Italian recipe, Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa. I first learned about the wonders of Italy from my uncle, who lived there for several years with his wife when I was a kid. They came back speaking exotic words like bella and mangia. I, too, wanted to speak Romance languages, travel to far-away places, and eat new foods. This week, my uncle passed away, but his traveler’s spirit lives on. This recipe is in honor of him.
- 1 pound broccoli rabe (or regular broccoli, if you can’t find it)
- 1 pound orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta. If you can’t find it, you can use any small pasta shape, like shells or gemelli.
- Olive oil
- 2 TB butter
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 4 to 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- Parmigiano reggiano cheese
- Optional: toasted pine nuts for topping; Italian sausage (uncased and cooked separately in a sauté pan) if you want to add meat
Chop up the broccoli rabe into small, bite-size pieces. I usually discard the large, roughest parts of the stems. Cook the pasta to al dente tenderness, according to instructions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan that has a lid, heat 3 TB olive oil and the butter, uncovered, over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add broccoli rabe pieces. Add the wine, bit by bit, and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. If it starts to brown (a.k.a burn), turn down the heat and add a little more wine. Cover the pan and let simmer until broccoili rabe is tender and liquid is mostly gone–about 10 minutes or more. When done, the broccoli rabe should be broken down and look almost like pesto. You can cheat a little and mush it down with your spatula to speed up the process. Uncover the pan and stir in the red pepper flakes (and cooked sausage if you are using it). Toss pasta into pan with a bit more olive oil and stir until pasta is coated with the broccoli rabe mixture. Grate cheese over top and, if desired, top with toasted pine nuts, too. Buon appetito.