Inspired by the more traditional orecchiette con cime di rapa, this greenissimo pasta dish features foglie di pasta agli spinaci, or leaf-shaped spinach pasta in place of the ‘little ear’ shapes known as orecchiette. The broccoli-like small buds of the plant are the prize, yet the leaves when cooked are also very good, with a savory-bittery flavor reminiscent of collard greens, so I used a mix of leaves and flowers for the sauce.
375 grams (3 cups/12 ounces) of green pasta or orecchiette
1 bunch of broccoli raab
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chili pepper
salt & pepper
Set a large pot of water to boil. Rinse the veg, find and pluck off the precious buds and set them aside. Separate the leaves from the stems. Chop the leaves and add them to the buds. You can save the stems for a vegetable stock if you like. Peel the garlic cloves. De-seed and thinly slice the pepper. In a large pan, heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the garlic and pepper. Swirl around for a few minutes so the oil is flavored, being careful not to let the garlic turn brown. Turn off the heat.
Salt the water when it has come to a boil and add the pasta. Check the pasta’s al dente cooking time and set your timer for the cooking time minus 5 minutes. When the timer goes off add the vegetable, stir,and cook for another 5 minutes. Do not overcook!
Strain the pasta and broccoli raab well and transfer to the sauce pan. Turn the heat back on low and thoroughly combine the pasta and greens. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese just before serving.