ORECCHIETTE CON LE CIME DI RAPA
(ear-shaped pasta with broccoli raab)
Orecchiette is a type of pasta native to Apulia, whose shape resembles a small ear (in Italian, "ear" is orecchio).
An orecchietta is about 2cm in size and looks like a small white dome with a rough surface.
Although the word “broccoli” is in the name of the plant, broccoli raab is not actually a "broccolo" (in italian the term "broccoli" is the plural form of "broccolo").
Like other "Brassicaceae" (plants similar to broccoli), broccoli raab has a strong, peppery taste, dark leafy greens, and stalks which are tender, turning woody with age. It can be cooked in any number of ways (preferably first boiled) and also eaten raw, and it is typically harvested young, before it turns too bitter and hard.
Broccoli raab could be considered the wild relative of broccoli, small, loose florets are tucked between large leaves, and taller flower stalks protrude from the plant. All of these parts of broccoli raab are edible, the flower stalks in particular.
The origin of broccoli raab is unclear, since it is cultivated all over the world. Italians use broccoli raab in a wide range of dishes.
The dishes should preferably be sprinkled with cacioricotta (basically dried sheep's milk ricotta cheese).
A good alternative would be to mix some aged romano cheese with some grated young pecorino.
Parmigiano Reggiano would generally not be ok.
Ingredients (4 portions)
1kg raw broccoli raab;
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVO);
2 garlic cloves;
1-2 salted anchovies;
1-2 small dried chillies
Salt, grated cacioricotta, regular romano-cheese or soft pecorino cheese.
Preparation (about 1 hour):
Clean the broccoli raab, remove the thicker stalks, rip the leaves into small pieces (about 3x3cm) and cut the softer stalks into bits (about 3-4cm long - don't discard the florets cause their sweet and savoury).
Prepare a large pot, fill it with about three litres water and put on high heat.
As soon as the water begins to boil, add some salt. Now add the broccoli and allow to boil until the stalks are soft (about 10 minutes).
Drain very well the broccoli using a skimmer spoon and keep the broccoli stock in the pot - we will use it later.
Allow the broccoli to get cold, then squeeze them carefully with your hands (they have to be as dry as possible).
Put the broccoli stock pot on high heat, eventually add some water (about 1-2 litres) and some salt.
Put a large pan (about 30cm) on high heat, add the EVO, the anchovies, the chillies and the garlic cloves.
Remove the garlic cloves once they're slightly coloured (don't let them get brown) and, once the anchovies are completely melted in the hot oil, add the broccoli raab.
Allow to fry until the broccoly raab is very slightly crisp.
In the mean time, cook the orecchiette in the broccoli stock and, just before the end of the cooking time (about 10 minutes - see package), put again the broccoli pan on high heat and directly add the orecchiette to the frying broccoli using the skimmer spoon, turn gently and serve hot sprinkled with grated cheese.