I don't know about you, but for me the holidays involved eating anything put in front of me, regardless of whether it was good for me or not (What do you mean cookies aren't a major food group?!). So this week I really felt the need to have something a little lighter and more healthy. My answer was a traditional pasta dish from the Puglia region of Italy, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe.
Puglia is the "heel" of Italy. If you check out the lovely new map of Italy that I have on the right hand side of the blog (courtesy of my hugely talented cousin, Paul), Puglia is the lilac colored region in the southeast of the map. This region is often said to reflect the "cucina povera" or cooking of the poor. Puglia features little meat in its cuisine, but instead focuses on greens and seafood. Puglia does produce very high quality wheat however, allowing it to make top quality pasta. The traditional pasta of the area is made with just flour and water rather than adding eggs like most pastas. Again, this demonstrated the "cucina povera" way of cooking. The local pasta in Puglia, orecchiette, means "little ears" because of the pasta's shape:
Orecchiette and broccoli rabe is a classic pairing, but this regional pasta is often combined with other ingredients as well, such as Italian sausage or a simple tomato sauce. The broccoli rabe is quite bitter, so you want to be sure to cook it well to mellow out that taste. Overall, this dish is light and quite healthy; perfect as a post-holiday meal or as a side dish with some grilled chicken or seafood!
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
Adapted from Rachael Ray via Food Network
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, rinse the broccoli rabe. Cut off the thick, coarse stems. Put the broccoli in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add 3 cups of water. Cover and let it come to a boil. Once the broccoli has started to wilt, let it simmer for another 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In the same skillet that you used for the broccoli, add the extra virgin olive oil and heat through over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute about 3 minutes.
- Return the broccoli to the skillet. Turn the broccoli so that it is coated in the oil, and let cook in the oil for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Add the pasta to the skillet. Toss everything to coat.
- Before serving, sprinkle each bowl of pasta with fresh parmigiano reggiano.
Ryan's rating of Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe - Devastating news folks, but Ryan's schedule has changed drastically, keeping him from tasting most of my dishes. So, on many of the dishes from here on out you will have to rely on my (slightly biased) rating. Here's I'll go with a 4. You could still taste some of the bitterness of the rabe, which I think would be combated better with a tomato sauce of some kind.