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.
For this orrechiette recipe I use what I call wild rapini. Typically this is shoots of garlic mustard or yellow rocket. You can use your favorite bitter greens, too.
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.
Prebboggion: The Wild Edible Plants of Liguria
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Erbazzone (Italian Wild Greens Pie)
Fazzoletti: The Hankerchief Pasta
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.
I've seen it before in other recipes, the blanching of the greens occurs in a pot of water which is then drained, and then the pasta is done in a pot of water, drained.
Any reason I shouldn't blanch greens, fish them out with a spider (or use a submersible container), then boil my pasta in the same water?
That's actually how I do it-sorry if that was unclear.
Oof! Salty. I’d cut the anchovies in half and I used half the sausage and it was great. Would totally try this again with a mindfulness towards the salt.
It's an exact replica of the restaurant version. I'd take a look at how much salt you put in your pasta water as it’s the variable here.
I thought this the seasoning was perfect as written a very unique pasta. My husband added salt but he's a salt lover. We used garlic mustard shoots.
This. Is. Sooooooo. Good.
Thanks for sharing it with us, here *and* in your fab book, _Flora_.
Such a great dish! THANK YOU!
I am working in a huge construction site - the university I work at has a brand new campus and my office is in a brand new building (that hardly leaks at all ...) and we are SURROUNDED by newly disturbed terrain. And that newly disturbed terrain, including the courtyards of my new building, are a carpet of Lepidium (aka Cardaria) draba which is crazy good in this dish, which I made a lot this spring... I could pick a pound of Cardaria raabs every day on my way home or a relaxed lunchtime stroll behind the building, starting in late March, and what with south-west versus north-east facing sides of the piles of bulldozed earth, in the shade or in the sun, the season was pretty long. Alas all are now in fluffy white flowering stage or beyond.
Mustard raabs are also nice but the ones I find here are markedly less bitter than the Cardaria, which is definitely my favorite for this.
Thanks Jacqui. Yes the more bitter the better here.