I love pasta with purely vegetable ‘sauces.’ It’s hard even calling them ‘sauced’, since there is not much liquid to speak of. One of my favorite dishes like this is Orecchiete con Le Rape, a little ear-shaped pasta made in Puglia, and dressed with Rape, a form of flowering broccoli. We had it on the day after Christmas in Bari, and it was delicious.
It’s a seemingly simple dish that is, of course, hard to perfect.This is because the vegetables are cooked directly in the same pot as the pasta. And so the timing is what is hard to get just right. Easy to get mushy pasta, or tough vegetables, or a variation on that.
Since it’s not so easy to get Pugliese rape anywhere other than in Puglia (you can’t even get them in Rome!) I often make a different version, using broccoli siciliano (what is called broccoli in the States).
I use equal parts broccoli and pasta, so you can really think of this as a one-dish meal.
And yes, there really are 5 tablespoons of olive oil here. That’s not a mistake. Since there is no liquid base for this sauce, like tomatoes, the olive oil acts not only as a vehicle for grabbing the flavors of garlic and anchovies, but add’s its own flavor as well and a touch of delicious unctiousness. (is that a word?)
Pasta with Broccoli
1/2 kilo (1 pound) of pasta
1/2 kilo (1 pound broccoli florets)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
6 anchovies, chopped
dried red pepper flakes, to taste
5 tablespoons of olive oil
Wash and chop broccoli florets into bit size pieces. You don’t want to use too much of the stem in this recipe, mostly just the florets.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. I like to use one of those pots with the pasta colander built right into it, that you lift out after. This makes the final steps much easier.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, and after six minutes add the broccoli. The pasta should take about another six minutes. This varies from pasta type to pasta type, so check for doneness after about 4 minutes. You want it al dente.
In mean time pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan, large enough to hold all the pasta and broccoli later. When warm, add garlic and anchovies and red pepper. Saute just until the garlic softens, about 3 minutes, and anchovies start to dissolve.
When pasta is done, drain, leaving some of the cooking water clinging (also set aside a cup of the cooking water). Add to saute pan and mix well over heat, adding a bit of the cooking water if it seems to dry. Turn off heat, add last tablespoon of oil and stir.