Rapini, or broccoli rabe, is related to the turnip, not broccoli, as you might think. The long stalks are covered in leaves and have few florets. I normally blanch it in boiling water, then add it to a pan of hot olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes to offset the slightly bitter taste.
Orecchiette pasta (looks like baby pig ears) was hard to find around here for years. It seems to be showing up a lot more lately in the speciality shops, but it’s little expensive. Ocassionally, when I run across a reasonably priced brand, I splurge on a pound.
I’ll cook up a mess of rapini, add Italian sausage (just enough for flavor), and then toss it with the orecchiette. It’s much different from our normal pasta dishes, but change is good now and then.
Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage Recipe
Orecchiette with Broccoli di Rapa e Sa
1 pound orecchiette
5 quarts water
2 tablespoons salt
4 quarts of ice water
1 pound rapini (broccoli rabe)
¼ cup Italian sausage
Healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to taste
1. Bring 5 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a full rolling boil. Add rapini and blanch for 1 minute. Remove rapini from boiling water and immediately drop in ice water. Drain well. Return the water to full rolling boil; add pasta and cook al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of rapini-pasta water. Drain orecchiette and set aside.
2. While pasta is cooking, brown sausage in oil. When sausage is brown, push to the side, then add garlic and crushed red pepper to the remaining oil. Press garlic two or three times to release flavor; do not brown. When garlic starts to discolor, remove from pan. Add rapini and salt, and just enough of the pasta water to make a little sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add orecchiette and toss. Top with cheese.
YIELD: 8 servings