"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
- Federico Fellini
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Orecchiette with rapini. Hands down, one of my favourite dishes! This is also a staple from my Nonna's kitchen.
After an afternoon of making pasta, my Nonna would cook up a quick meal, using the pasta that we would have made that day.
Orecchiette is a type of pasta that originated from the region of Puglia, where my grandparents are from. Quite literally, orecchiette means "ears" in Italian. It is then no surprise that this pasta is shaped exactly like them. Very cute!
Being a dame of the south, my Nonna often serves this pasta in a traditional red sauce. However, when my Nonno starts to get tired of the usual tomato, my Nonna likes to switch it up, opting for a pasta in bianco, where pasta water is used to build and create a unique and flavourful sauce.
Rapini is another integral part of this dish. Also known as broccoli rabe, rapini looks like the distant Italian cousin, twice removed, of regular broccoli. True, it’s an acquired taste, but out of necessity grew pleasure in eating this staple ingredient and crop. Bitter in taste and peculiar to anywhere not from my grandparents’ hometown, rapini would comfort after a hard day’s work. It is also FULL of flavour!
Though a peasant dish, orecchiette con rapini is a comfort dish. It’s a creation from my grandparent’s old life in Italy that’s culturally in sync. To this day, I still can’t refuse a plate!
The addition of pancetta and a hint of truffle oil elevates this dish. It is - dare I say it - almost as delicious as Nonna's!
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Orecchiette Con Rapini
* Makes 4 servings, or 2 if you’re really committed 😉 *
3 tablespoons olive oil
125 g pancetta, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 bunch of rapini, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of oregano and salt
Dash of black pepper
1 teaspoon truffle oil
1/2 cup of pasta water
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 package of orecchiette pasta
Add coarsely chopped pancetta to a frying pan and cook for a few minutes before adding chopped onions and garlic.
Add chopped rapini and cook until tender, adding spices and truffle oil.
In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil. Season the water with a splash of oil and a generous amount of salt. Cook the orecchiette until they are al dente (8 to 10 minutes).
Take ½ cup of the pasta water and add it to the pan with the rapini mixture.
Drain the pasta once it is cooked, tossing it with the rapini.
Serve with a glass of Negroamaro and an extra plate for your paesan’ !