At times we want something different than spaghetti or even fettuccine and Italy certainly has its wide range of pastas with every region claiming pride to its own distinct noodle shape. In Puglia “the heel of the boot” orecchiette otherwise known as “little ears” reign supreme. Store shelves are lined with these distinctly domed shaped pastas with a cup-like interior making it ideal for scooping up chunky sauces and vegetables. Here, as you toss the orecchiette, the sausage and vegetables become trapped in the hollowed out part of the pasta and flavors every single bite with deliciousness.
If you have never tried bread crumbs on pasta before do give it a try. It simply adds an extra layer of goodness and crunch. Sometimes store bought breadcrumbs will just not do and this is one dish where fresh and flavorful is essential. Making your own is supper easy and a great way to use up stale bread. Simply give it a whirl in the food processor or use a box grater. I always have some bread in the freezer which I grate while still frozen, it works wonderfully. 🙂
Rapini or broccoli rabe looks like thin broccoli but is related to the turnip. The taste is somewhat bitter but mellows out during cooking. All the parts of this vegetable are edible. I simply cut out about 1 inch from the bottom of the stem and use it in my favorite dishes. 🙂
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup plain crumbs
- kosher salt
- 1 large bunch of rapini, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 500 g dried orecchiette
- 1 lb Italian sausages (mild or strong)
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Warm the 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a small frying pan over medium low heat. Add the bread crumbs, season with a pinch of kosher salt and cook stirring often for about 6 to 8 minutes or just until they start to look a deep golden brown. Set aside.
Bring a large pot 3/4 full of water to a boil. Salt generously (about 2 tablespoons). Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and stir well. Cook according to package instructions stirring occasionally. Three minutes before end of cooking time, add in the rapini, stir gently.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add in the sausage, minced garlic, onion, red bell pepper and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon for about 7 to 10 minutes until the sausage is nicely browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When the orecchiette is ready, drain the pasta and rapini and add it to the sausage mixture along with the grated cheese, stirring well over low heat.
Plate and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkle of toasted bread crumbs.