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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

This straightforward preparation is enjoyed throughout Apulia, the "heel" of Italy's boot, where it is liberally drizzled with the region's superb extra-virgin olive oil. Look for broccoli rabe in specialty markets; it resembles broccoli but has thinner stems, smaller florets and more leaves. If you can't find it, substitute broccoli florets.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 lb. trimmed broccoli rabe, stems thicker
      than a pencil removed (about 2 lb. before
      trimming)
  • 1 lb. dried orecchiette
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese

Directions:

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until the garlic colors lightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Have ready a bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, lift out and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Leave the pot of water over high heat. Drain the broccoli rabe well and squeeze gently to remove any excess moisture. Chop into 2-inch lengths.

Add the pasta to the boiling water used to cook the broccoli rabe, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 12 minutes or according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, add the broccoli rabe to the pan holding the garlic. Return to medium heat, season generously with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is hot throughout, 3 to 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta and return to the warm pot. Add the sauce and toss. Divide among warmed dishes and serve immediately. Pass the pecorino cheese at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Classic Pasta at Home, by Janet Fletcher (Time-Life Books, 1998).