Orecchiette With Cime Di Rapa
Orecchiette With Cime Di Rapa

Orecchiette With Cime Di Rapa

Cime di rapa (turnip tops, sometimes called broccoli rabe or rapini) is very much a seasonal vegetable; you definitely won’t see it in the shops all year round, and you may have to go on the hunt for it. If you haven’t tried it before, you may be surprised by its rather strong, bitter lemony flavour, but blanching it softens the bitterness and it pairs really well with olive oil and chilli. Sausage meat is a good addition to this sauce, and both options – with and without the meat – are very common in Puglia.
Photography: DAVE BROWN

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Total Time
1 Hour 30 Minutes
400g of orecchiette
400g of cime di rapa, leaves only
3 tbsp of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, diced, or ½ tsp of red chilli flakes
6 anchovy fillets (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon
Pangrattato, to serve
For The Orecchiette
280g of fine semolina
130ml of warm water
Pinch of salt
Step 1

First, make the semolina dough for the orecchiette, by using a stand mixer or by hand. Place the semolina, warm water and salt in the mixer bowl, start on a slow speed and mix steadily until the dough is formed. Tip onto a work surface, flatten into a disc. Or in a large mixing bowl, place the semolina in a large mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and pour in the warm water. Combine with a fork – it will soon look like a crumble mix – and start to form the dough into a loose ball with your hands. As soon as the dough has come together, turn it onto a clean work surface or board and knead until it is smooth and elastic – this will take about 10-15 minutes. Use the heel of one hand to push the dough away from you, and use your other hand to turn it 90° after each knead – you will soon develop a lovely rhythm. When the dough is smooth, form it into a flat disc.

Step 2

Now shape the orecchiette, start with a quarter of the dough, keeping the rest in an airtight container, and prepare a tray or baking sheet dusted with coarse semolina, on which to lay out your finished pasta. Using both hands, roll out the dough on a work surface until you have a long rope about 2cm in diameter – pretty much the width of your finger. Using a serrated knife, or a plain one if you prefer – try both and see which works best for you – cut a piece of dough about 1.5cm long. Holding your knife at a 45° angle, drag the blade towards you across the surface of the dough, following along with both index fingers to guide the shape. You will end up with a curl of pasta which you can open out a little if it’s too tight. It should resemble half an empty walnut shell, a bit bumpy and rough – just what you need to capture the delicious sauce.

Step 3

For the cime di rapa, bring a medium-sized pan of water to the boil, season the water with table salt and blanch the cime di rapa for 3 minutes, then transfer immediately to ice-cold water (this helps to maintain the colour of the leaves). Squeeze out the excess water and chop roughly, then leave to one side.

Step 4

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the garlic and chilli on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until fragrant but not coloured. Add the anchovy fillets (if using) and cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the anchovies break up into the sauce. Leave on a low heat while you cook the pasta.

Step 5

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, season it generously with table salt and cook the orecchiette for 2-3 minutes.

Step 6

Meanwhile, add the cime di rapa to the saucepan of garlic and anchovies, along with half a ladleful of the pasta cooking water.

Step 7

Drain the cooked pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the sauce and toss together. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, adding more cooking water if you need to.

Step 8

Place the pan in the centre of the table (or transfer to a warmed bowl if you prefer) along with a bowl of pangrattato, so everyone can help themselves.

Recipe courtesy of Pasta Masterclass by Mateo Zielonka (Quadrille, £19.49, was £26)

Photography: Dave Brown

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