Orecchiette is the prestigious pasta of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. The name means "little ears," and the indentations in the pasta catch the sauce. The rim of the orecchiette, a bit thicker than the depressed center, stays firm when you cook it, creating an interesting textural contrast as you eat.
The traditional Pugliese way to eat orecchiette is with broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, in a simple sauce seasoned with red pepper flakes. You can substitute sliced fresh sage for the crushed red pepper flakes if you would like a milder taste. Makes 3-4 servings.
10 oz orecchiette pasta (little ear-shaped pasta) or penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1- 15 ½ -ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and patted dry
½ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes or 1 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage for a milder dish
½ pound bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice plus salt and pepper to taste
Cook orecchiette in large pot of boiling salted water until pasta is tender but still firm to bite, al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in another large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add garbanzo beans and sauté until garbanzo beans are beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Add red pepper flakes (or sliced fresh sage) and sauté 1 minute to blend flavors.
Add broccoli rabe, wine, and 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid to pot. Cover and simmer until broccoli rabe is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and add pasta and Parmesan cheese; toss to combine. Mix in more of reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if pasta is dry. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl and serve.
Swiss Chard and Herb Tart
I have made this tart several times using different types of greens each time. My favorite is swiss chard, but feel free to use any type that you have on hand such as spinach, broccoli greens, kale, collards, etc.
1 lb swiss chard, stems and ribs removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp minced fresh thyme
1/4 tsp minced fresh oregano
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 (17 oz) pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets)
Cook chard in large pot of boiling salted water until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain. Squeeze out liquid and chop. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Add chard; sauté until excess liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Transfer chard mixture to large bowl. Cool slightly. Mix in ricotta and next 7 ingredients. Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Roll out 1 pastry sheet on lightly floured surface into a 14-inch square. Transfer pastry to 9-inch-diameter tart pan. Trim edges, leaving 1-inch overhang. Fill pastry with chard mixture. Lightly brush pastry overhang with pastry brush dipped into water.Roll out second pastry sheet to 13-inch square. Using tart pan as guide, trim pastry square to 10-inch round. Drape over filling. Seal edges and fold inches. Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.Remove pan sides from tart. Transfer to platter. Cut into wedges and serve.
Escarole alla Romana
The pan will be full with the fresh escarole, but the volume reduces quickly when cooked.
Sauteed Bok Choy and Broccoli
1 pound bok choy
1 pound broccoli
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Cut white stalks from bok choy; slice into 1-inch pieces. Coarsely chop green leaves. Peel stalks from broccoli; slice 1/4 inch thick. Cut florets into bite-size pieces. In a large skillet, boil 1/2 cup water. Add bok choy stalks and broccoli; cover. Simmer over medium-low until broccoli is bright green, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover; cook on high until water evaporates, 2 to 4 minutes. Add bok choy leaves, oil, ginger, and garlic. Cook, tossing often, until garlic is fragrant, 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce.