Pasta Monday.  I have died and gone to Gastronomic Heaven.  How can so few ingredients pack such a wallop of flavor?  It truly boggles the mind.

First off, I love broccoli rabe.  It’s a slightly bitter green with an earthy flavor that just works with anything.  Sauteed with a bit of garlic and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, it makes a great side dish.  Or – as in tonight’s dinner – simply mixed with a couple of key ingredients and it really shows off.

Tonight’s plate is one of those dishes where the picture just isn’t going to do it justice.  Visually, it’s gorgeous – the most beautiful greens imaginable.  Even the orecchiette takes on a slightly shimmering green tone.  Contrasted with the white white of the ricotta salada and it’s visual perfection.

And then you take that first bite…

The flavors and textures all work with one another perfectly.  The bread crumbs add a really great contrast to the pasta and broccoli rabe.  Perfect.

This is one of those instances where it’s much better that Victor is in the kitchen.  I tend to look at a recipe and then start adding things…  I could easily see mushrooms and onions and garlic and peppers and lord knows what else being thrown into the pot.  But the beauty of this dish is the simplicity.  It’s the lack of ingredients that makes it so good.  And let’s face it – restraint is not a word I know well.

I highly recommend it.

Orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa – Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

  • 1 ¼ lbs broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • Salt
  • 3 oz guanciale or pancetta cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • 6 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup coarse, plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb Orecchiette
  • 1 cup coarsely grated ricotta salata cheese (3 oz)

Cook broccoli rabe in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes.

Reserving the water, transfer broccoli rabe to a colander, rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Squeeze out excess water and roughly chop.

In a large skillet, combine guanciale or pancetta and 4 tbls oil, heat over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large serving bowl (big enough to toss the pasta)

Return skillet to medium heat, add 2 tbls oil and breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring constantly, until breadcrumbs are golden, about 5 minutes then remove from heat.

Return pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta and add to bowl with broccoli rabe. Add breadcrumb mixture and ¼ cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Toss to combine. Moisten with extra pasta cooking liquid, if desired. Serve immediately, sprinkled with cheese.

This is one that will be made over and over.  And who knows…  maybe I will play with it a bit.  I think this would be good no matter what.

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