This is quite possibly the most iconic recipe from the region of Puglia. The remarkable thing about it is how the broccoli rabe almost melts together with the pasta. This comes from the old Pugliese technique of boiling the pasta and vegetables together and then sautéing them in garlic, oil, and anchovies. If you’re not a big anchovy person, don’t worry; once they’re melted into the oil, the flavor is so subtle that you’ll barely notice. If you’re making this dish for people who don’t love anchovies, don’t even tell them they’re in there! They’ll never know!
Nonna Romana says: “My mother, Regina, would also add some sun-dried tomatoes to this dish to give it more color and flavor. You can chop them and add them to the oil when you are sautéing the garlic.”
16 ounces (454 g) dried or fresh orecchiette
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound, or 454 g), ends trimmed, washed, and cut into bite-size pieces
6 tablespoons (90 g) extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
4 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
If using fresh orecchiette, add the broccoli rabe first and boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Drop in the fresh orecchiette and continue cooking until the pasta is al dente, 4 to 5 minutes. If using dried orecchiette, add the pasta and broccoli rabe to the water together and boil until the pasta is al dente.
When the pasta has 4 to 5 minutes to go, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the garlic is golden and the anchovies have broken down, 2 to 3 minutes.
Scoop out about 1 cup (235 ml) of pasta water and set aside. With a large strainer or a spider, scoop out the pasta and broccoli rabe, letting the water drain out of each scoop, and add it directly to the skillet with the garlic and anchovies. Toss together quickly for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure you evenly coat the pasta with the garlic and oil. Serve in warm bowls.
Cooking With Nonna © 2017 text by Rossella Rago. First published in the United States of America in 2017 by Race Point Publishing, a member of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. 142 West 36th Street, 4th Floor New York, New York 10018.