A cornerstone of traditional Southern Italian cooking from Apulia, orrechiette with sausage and broccoli raab is one of my favorite pastas of all time, and arguably the best pasta with bitter greens I know.
I was taught to make it different ways, but my favorite version was taught to me by Milanese Chef William Salvadore who worked as maitre'd at La Gavroche, the first 3-star Michelin restaurant in the U.K.
Above: a compilation of variations from my library.
What is Rapini?
Also known Brassica rapa var. ruvo, cima de rape, broccoli rabe, broccoli raab, or rapini, these are a bitter cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli well known in Mediterranean cuisine. They're one of the best bitter greens available in grocery stores.
Orecchiette alla Barese Ingredients
You'll need orrechiette pasta, sausage, panko breadcrumbs, anchovy, crushed red chili pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. No cheese is added to this pasta, but parmigiano reggiano and especially pecorino romano are often added to other versions. I used wild boar sausage, but mild or hot Italian sausage is fine.
How to Make Orecchiette alla Barese
First the sausage is browned. Next the broccoli rabe is par-cooked, squeezed dry, and roughly chopped.
To make the pasta, you cook anchovy filets in oil until dissolved. Next, breadcrumbs are added and cooked until brown.
Finally you add hot chili pepper, sausage, orecchiette, and bitter greens and toss everything together. This is a sauceless pasta, and the crunchy texture of the breadcrumbs makes it one of the most unique you'll have.
Erbazzone (Italian Wild Greens Pie)
Orecchiette alla Barese
- 1 10 inch saute pan
- 1 Pasta pot
- 4 oz dried orecchiette pasta
- 6 oz Italian sausage
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup oil I like to use a 50/50 blend of extra virgin olive oil to grapeseed
- 3 ounces broccoli rabe/rapini or wild raabs like garlic mustard
- Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (it should be quite spicy)
- Kosher salt as needed
- 6 anchovy filets preserved in oil patted dry on a paper towel
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanch the greens for 30 seconds, then remove and cool on a tray. Rapini should be cooked until just tender. Drain and squeeze out any water, cut into 1 inch pieces and reserve. Save the water for cooking the pasta.
- For the pasta, begin by heating a large saute pan (12 inches is good) add a tablespoon of the oil and brown the sausage on medium heat, breaking it into small clumps with a wooden spoon. Remove the sausage and reserve.
- Add the anchovies to the pan along with the rest of the oil on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the anchovy filets dissolve. Add the breadcrumbs and stir. cook on low-medium heat until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Bring the pot of salted water back to a rolling boil, then add the orecchiette. Stir the pasta vigorously since orrechiette is notorious for sticking.
- Cook the pasta al dente, tossing in a colander to remove pasta water, then add to the pan with the sausage and crumbs. Add the chopped rapini, sausage, chilli flakes to taste (¼ teaspoon for 4 people.) and some more olive oil if the pan starts to look dry.
- Heat the mixture just to take the chill off of the rapini, then serve immediately. If this pasta isn't eaten immediately the breadcrumbs won't be crisp. No cheese is served with this as it's already seasoned.