Orecchiette with Rapini

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Mark T. Shapiro

Orecchiette —“little ears”—are the traditional pasta in the southern Italian region of Apulia. There are a number of good commercial brands available; just check cooking times, since they vary from brand to brand. A few years ago in Lecce, I watched three women make hundreds of orecchiette at a table set up in a sun-flooded piazza. I was amazed at the speed with which their hands flew back and forth, rolling and shaping the dough to form the dainty little cup-shaped pasta that holds sauce so well. They smiled shyly at their own dexterity as they repeated a centuries-old tradition of pasta making. In Apulia, they follow the method used here of cooking the greens along with the pasta. Turnip tops, arugula, dandelion greens or any slightly bitter green may be substituted for rapini.




Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseappetizer, main course, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecheesy, garlicky, salty, savory, sharp

Type of Dishdry pasta, pasta


  • 1 lb (500 g) rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets (salt-packed if available), rinsed, patted dry and chopped
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) coarse salt
  • 1 lb (500 g) orecchiette
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) grated ricotta salata (a hard, salted version of ricotta) or Pecorino Romano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Additional grated Pecorino Romano


Wash rapini. Trim and discard thick stalks. Roughly chop thinner stalks and leaves, keeping the little florets intact. Set aside.

In a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until softened. Stir in anchovies, mashing with the back of a spoon until paste-like. Stir in red pepper flakes, if using. Set sauce aside and keep warm.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in coarse salt and chopped rapini; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in pasta; cook until pasta is tender but firm. Drain; transfer pasta and rapini to a warmed serving bowl. Toss with sauce and grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional grated cheese, if desired.



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