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Friday, February 15, 2013

Orecchietti with Rappini

I was surprised to find out that World Pasta day has been celebrated on October 25th since 1995.  Being Italian I don’t know how I missed that memo but not to worry as we enjoy pasta at least two times a week.  I am however planning to make it a special pasta celebration next October.

While we enjoy many pasta dishes with tomato sauce just as many are enjoyed “in bianco” translated “in white” basically meaning no tomato sauce.

I've always known this vegetable to be called Rappini but it also goes by the names of Broccoli Rabe and Broccoletti just to mention a few and are commonly found in Italian as well as Chinese cuisine.

In this recipe for Orecchiette and Rappini, the garlic flavoured olive oil brings the ingredients together for a delicious pasta experience.   Linguini and spaghetti can also be successfully used but I’m sure there are other preferred pasta shapes that work as well.

Although Rappini are an excellent choice for this dish the more familiar Broccoli is a good substitute if the slight bitterness of Rappini does not appeal to the taste.

I've watched my mother make homemade Orecchietti for many years. Her special tools consist of a rustic wooden board and special knife.  Not that the knife itself is special in any way since it's just a regular dinner knife.  It becomes special in her hands as she cuts small pieces from a long rope shaped piece of dough and drags it over the board with the gentle guidance of her fingers.  It's amazing to see these perfectly shaped orecchietti or “little ears” emerging from beneath that knife.  I think it has more to do with the size, shape and weight if the particular knife that makes it her perfect choice.

There is a definite difference between store bought and home made Orecchietti as the store bought variety are very thick and chewy compared the home made.  Since semolina is the star ingredient in  home made the taste and texture is far superior.  However, if one has never experienced home made Orecchietti there will not be any opportunity for comparison therefore store bought will do.

Unfortunately I did not inherit the ability to make this wonderfully shaped pasta but plan to inherit that knife some day which is at the moment taking a well deserved rest.  Perhaps at some point I may be inclined to give it a try even if just to carry on the tradition.

Though the knife may never produce another Orecchietti it will forever hold memories that are truly dear to me.

Orecchiette with Rappini

Quantities are approximate and measurement of ingredients can be adjusted to accommodate personal preference.

2 bunches rappini
450 grams of Orecchiette or favourite pasta
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic
2 to 3 anchovy fillets (optional)
freshly ground black pepper or dried chili flakes
  1. Cut off lower, tougher stems from rappini, cut stalks in half, wash in cold waterand drain.
  2. Boil in salted water until just tender, drain and set aside, do not overcook. 
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.
  4. After draining, place pasta back into pot and add cooked rappini, tossing together.
  5. Heat olive oil with finely minced garlic until very hot (if desired squash garlic cloves and add to oil for flavor only then remove. If using anchovies add them in with the garlic.)
  6. Pour hot oil over pasta and rappini and toss together.  Add a little reserved pasta water if too dry.
  7. Plate and add black pepper or dried chili flakes (optional).
  8. Approximately 6 servings.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions
  • Boiling may not be the best way of cooking vegetables but in this case it helps remove some of the bitterness of the Rappini although some of us actually love it.
  • Adding the garlic whole to the oil then removing it gives a subtle garlic taste without finding pieces in the dish.  Again, this is a matter of taste as some enjoy eating the garlic.  Whatever you do just don't burn it, if you do start over.
  • I have always omitted the anchovies to avoid a revolt at the dinner table, it's up to you to include them.
  • My favourite is Rappini with Linguini...delicious and rhyming as well!


  1. e to the l to the i to the z...February 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

    MMmmm, this actually looks quite good. Could you substitute spinach for the rappini if one doesn't find they have a flair for bitter greens?

    Though 'spinach and orechetti' doesn't have the same rhyming to it!

  2. If I were to use spinach and not saying that I would I would use bagged baby spinach,generally used as salad. Toss the raw spinach in after draining the pasta just before adding the hot oil.
    The heat will be enough to wilt the spinach to a cooked state.
    Sounds like a good idea but nothing beats the taste of rappini...of course that's in my opinion.