Orecchiette with Broccoli Sauce was one of my favourite meals on a recent trip to Italy. Shaped like small ears, the pasta comes from Puglia, the southeastern region of Italy. I did not have the pasta in Puglia, rather in Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region in the north of Italy.
Of course, my Italian friends were quick to point out (with somewhat raised eyebrows) that I had pasta that was not from the area that was in at the time. I got the meal from a small pasta takeaway called Pasta Fresca Naldi. It is a tiny shop run by two grannies, offering freshly made pasta everyday at really affordable prices. Options include the classics from the area such as lasagna and tortellini en brodo and I went back a few times to work my way through the menu.
The tortellini en brodo is fantastic but the lasagna just OK. I prefer my version with far too much cheese sauce. But it’s the Orecchiette with Broccoli Sauce that was the best of the bunch. I was thrilled when I found a bag of dried orecchiette at Giovanni’s two weeks ago so that I could recreate the dish at home.
It’s hard to believe that the simplest of ingredients can make something so delicious but as we all know, that is something the Italians do so well. All you have to do is simmer the broccoli in stock with some garlic and dried chilli flakes and cook it down to thick sauce. Add a bit of the water the pasta cooked in to make it creamier, add grated parmesan cheese and it is ready. The dried chilli flakes is a must and I think the lemon zest lifts the flavours beautifully. Flavourful, filling and a breeze to make.
Olive Oil provided by Baleia Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I am proud to be associated with Baleia Extra Virgin Olive Oil and use it whenever a recipe requires Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The South African cold press extra virgin Olive Oil is produced in the Riversdale area, has a whiff of fresh cut grass and aromas of green tomatoes, almonds artichokes and green apples.
- 250g orecchiette pasta
- 2 tbsp Baleia Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 garlic cloves mashed
- a good pinch chili flakes (to taste)
- 350g broccoli florets broken into very small florets
- 500ml warm vegetable stock
- 100g grated parmesan cheese
- lemon zest to serve
- In a heavy based saucepan, saute the garlic and chili flakes in the olive oil, over medium heat until soft, about 2-3 minutes
- Add the broccoli and broth
- Bring to a boil and then simmer, mashing the broccoli pieces with a wooden spoon each time you stir
- Keep simmering until half of the liquid evaporates and you have the consistency of a thick sauce, about 15 minutes (you can also use a vegetable masher to help it along)
- While the sauce simmers, cook pasta according to directions, and save some hot pasta water when you drain.
- Mix in some of the pasta water to make the sauce creamier and slightly thinner
- Add the pasta to the sauce and toss well
- Season and stir in 75g of the cheese and give it a final stir
- Let stand for about 5 minutes and divide among bowls and top with the rest of the cheese and some lemon zest
A few more of my favourite pasta recipes :