Orecchiete con cime di rapa – pasta with broccoli rabe

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This very simple dish is made from a curiously shaped pasta commonly found in the region of Puglia. Orecchiette are small disks of pasta made into ear-like shapes by pressing a thumb into a sliced fresh pasta disk creating a concave cap. Most of the pasta in this region is made without eggs, just flour and water, which makes a firm, chewier dough.

Very good commercially produced orecchiette are available here in dried form. Other small pasta shapes can be substituted. Use a good quality, fruity olive oil for this dish.

Cime di rape, more commonly known as rapini or broccoli rape (or rabe) is a variety of turnip greens which resemble broccoli although with more leaves and tiny flowerets. Its flavor is somewhat bitter. Other bitter greens such as chicory and green radicchio can be substituted.

  • 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • 1 lb. broccoli rape
  • fruity olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • dried, crushed red hot pepper flakes, to taste
  • Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese


Rinse the broccoli rape and remove and discard any yellowed leaves. Trim the stem ends. Blanch in a large amount of boiling salted water until the stems are tender. Drain and set aside.

Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (slightly chewy).

While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients heat the olive oil, garlic and crushed dried red pepper flakes on low. Turn off the heat before the garlic begins to brown.

Add the cooked pasta and the broccoli rape to the skillet. Toss on medium heat to distribute the flavors. If too dry, add a bit of pasta water or chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a warm bowl, and serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano cheese.