Orecchiette with broccoli raab is the iconic dish of the Italian region of Puglia. It's a recipe full of flavours and textures, the bitter-sweet broccoli raab, the salty anchovies, the crunchy breadcrumbs and the spicy chilli. Pasta is cooked in the same water as the broccoli raab, so it gets all the flavour. When it's not broccoli raab season, try it with broccoli or cauliflower.
250g broccoli raab
400g handmade or shop-bought orecchiette
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 anchovies fillets, in olive oil
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 pinch dried chilli pepper flakes (optional)
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Wash the broccoli raab and cut off and reserve the tips (flowers). Peel the outermost, tougher part of the stems and cut them in 3 to 4cm long strips. Chop the leaves too.
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the stems and leaves. Considering that the broccoli raab stems and leaves will need to cook for about 15 minutes and the pasta needs about 4 to 5 minutes for fresh and about 8 minutes for dried, add the pasta at the correct time after the broccoli raab; Add the flowers 4 minutes before the total cooking time is up.
In the meantime, cook the garlic in 2 tablespoons oil, until golden. Add the anchovies, stir and break into little pieces with a wooden spoon then cook until they become soft. In another pan, toast the breadcrumbs in 1 teaspoon of oil until crisp and golden.
Drain pasta and broccoli raab and reserve 2 ladles of cooking water. Transfer the pasta into the pan with the anchovies, add a ladle of water and cook on high heat for 1 minute or so, tossing to coat the pasta. Add the chilli flakes if using and more water if needed. Discard the garlic.
Distribute the orecchiette on to 4 warmed plates and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs. Serve.
If using fresh pasta, it will take no longer than 4 to 5 minutes. So, you might need to add the pasta along with the broccoli raab tips, 4 to 5 minutes before the end.