Eat Puglia | Orecchiette con cime di rapa
Join us as we #EatPuglia and serve up some of the best dishes, streetfood, and regional produce to try when you visit. Iconic, traditional and honest. And usually, inexpensive.
Orecchiette con cime di rapa
If there is one dish that best represents our region, this is it. Puglia’s iconic orecchiette pasta served up with broccoli rabe.
In recipes and on menus you will find cime di rapa translated as turnip tops, the literal translation. Cime = tops (cima, singular), rapa = turnip (rape, plural). In reality it is broccoli rabe (brassica rapa) rather than the green offshoot of a root vegetable.
We use the leaves and florets. Sowing takes place in late spring or during the summer months for an autumn/winter harvest, through to spring. Plants are cut at about 10 cm from the ground, before the florets flower.
Slightly sweet, but tending more towards bitter, florets and leaves of the rape are used to make a cooked “pesto” with garlic scented olive oil, melted anchovies and for added piquancy some deseeded red chilli. Golden sautéed breadcrumbs are sometimes added or sprinkled on top.
So iconic is this dish that the rape, a winter green, is preserved or frozen by restaurants to be served up to visitors all summer long.
A plate of orecchiette con le cime di rapa does not need grated cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, are luxury ingredients. Instead we use toasted pangrattato, bread crumbs made from leftover stale bread lightly sautéed in our extra virgin olive oil.
The same is true generally of any dish made with orecchiette. However when served with tomatoes, or with a tomato sugò, we will use usually finish the dish with some grated cacioricotta pugliese.
Where? | Pretty much everywhere. Ostuni 2022 restaurant price (from Ostuni Bistrot, pictured), 12€.
Fatto in casa | la ricetta
broccoli rabe | 1 kg / 2¼ lb
olive oil | 100 ml / 3½ fl oz (½ cup)
1 small red chilli | seeded and sliced
garlic cloves | 2 finely sliced
anchovy fillets | 4-5
salt and pepper
orecchiette | 500g, fresh or dried
Wash thoroughly. Remove any thick stalks and roughly chop the cime di rapa (though you can include them, just allow for a slightly longer cooking time). Blanch the cime di rapa in salted boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes. Unlike broccoli the cime di rapa breaks down quickly and changes colour from a deep to bright green.
Drain well. We usually let it sit in a colander and cover with a pan lid so it continues to cook in its own heat.
Cook the orecchiette in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. In the spirit of minimal waste we use the water left over from the cime, though this is optional.
In the meantime heat some of the oil in a frying pan, add the broccoli rabe (optional | at this stage you can add a 8 -12 halved or quartered cherry tomatoes), and fry for 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Season well. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid if you have one.
Heat the remaining oil in a separate, deep bottomed frying pan (remember we add the cooked pasta to the sauce, not the other way round). Add half the chilli and fry for 1-2 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant. Stir in the anchovies, breaking them up.
Once the anchovies have broken up and partly melted, taking care not to burn the garlic, turn off the heat. Add the cooked orecchiette and the broccoli rabe. Stir well and season to taste.
Finish with sautéed breadcrumbs and or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Although we would never add Parmesan we do allow ourselves some grated cacioricotta from time to time.
More | our curated guide to Puglia’s best restaurants and eating experiences | Masseria Moroseta review - expensive but exceptional dining | Grottaglie’s La Luna nel Pozzo - could this be one of Puglia’s best restaurants? | Puglia - where to base yourself on vacation | the definitive gay guide to Puglia 2022.