I’ve just had my first bowl of the year, and boy was it good. I’d thoroughly recommend getting hold of some seeds as they grow really easily and, according to Seeds of Italy, if you sow in March-Sep in the UK, you’d harvest them between May-mid Oct. You can get 40, 60, 90 and 120 day varieties (they get bigger and tastier heads the longer they grow). Serves four as primi (first course) or two mains.
While this is probably one of Puglia’s most famous recipes the type of pasta used need not be the one most synonymous with the region. It works just as well with spaghetti, penne or any small pasta shape. But if you want authenticity I’ve included a recipe for orecchiettte.
Although cime de rapa is often referred to in English cookbooks as turnip tops (a very distant relation), this is a most confusing description. It is more like a stronger, mustardy-flavoured broccoli, so substitute any of this family should you be unable to find any.
400g/14oz cime de rapa
6 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves
2 fresh red chillies or 1tsp dried and crushed
50g/2oz parmesan or pecorino cheese
Anchovy fillets (2) or a handful of capers are often included and you may also wish to include 3 tbsp pine nuts and/or 3tbsp soaked sultanas.
Clean and de-leaf the cima di rapa and cook for five minutes in salted boiling water, then drain. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the garlic (whole cloves) and chilli for a few minutes,until the garlic browns. Mash the garlic with a fork and then add the cima di rapa and cook for around five minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. I usually throw in a handful of capers at this stage.
Meanwhile cook the orecchiette in a pan off salted boiling water for 10 minutes or according to packet instructions. Drain the pasta and toss with the cime de rapa. Serve with grated cheese and dried chilli flakes. Alternatively, you can cook the cima de rapa with the orecchiette. If using this method pour oil and sprinkle cheese on once drained.
200g/7oz plain flour
100g/3.5oz semolina flour
Enough tepid water to make a dough
Heap the flour and salt together in a mound and create a well in the centre. Add the tepid water slowly and mix to a firm elastic dough. Knead well and shape into long rolls that are 2.5cm/1inch in diameter. Cut into square-like sections and drag them one at a time, slowly over a work surface using the tip of a table knife to form little shells. It helps to start from the top and to continue holding the top with your other hand whilst dragging them down. You can place each shell upside down on the tip of your thumb to accentuate its curve. To give you and idea of the shape that you are after, orecchiette means little ears in English.
Many thanks to the lovely Maria for sharing her cooking tips.
For more detailed instructions on how to make orecchiette click here.