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Broccoli Rabe, Feta and Mint Pasta

Pleasantly bitter broccoli rabe, lightly sharp feta cheese and refreshing mint perk up tomato sauce in an inventive meatless meal (just omit the pancetta for a vegetarian version). For a fresh, authentic flavor, use sheep’s milk feta. The pasta is so satisfying, no side dish is needed.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 oz. pancetta, chopped (optional)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large pinches of red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (28 oz.) Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe, about 1 3/4 lb. total, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 14 1/2 to 16 oz. rotini pasta, preferably multigrain
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and sauté until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water and bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens and the flavors blend, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and black pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until just crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli rabe to a bowl. Add the pasta to the pot, stir well and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Return the broccoli rabe to the pot and cook until heated through, about 30 seconds.

Drain the pasta and broccoli rabe and return them to the same pot. Add the sauce and mint and stir to coat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and black pepper. Transfer the pasta to a warmed shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Quick Tips: Keep pancetta, high-quality canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes and pasta on hand in the pantry for quick dinners that need no advance planning. Crumbled fresh goat cheese or grated pecorino romano cheese are delicious alternatives to the feta. Feel free to substitute any short pasta shapes such as fusilli or penne for the rotini.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast, by Kristine Kidd (Williams-Sonoma, 2011).