I am a big fan of greens and make them often. While many people object to the bitter taste of some greens I like all varieties and so does my family. Most greens are relatively cheap in price and a good value with great health benefits to boot. They are great as a simple side dish gently sauteed in olive oil and garlic. I also like to add them to soups, especially hearty bean soups for added texture and taste.
Among my favorite type of greens is broccoli rabe, or "rapini" as I came to know them when growing up. Not so readily available back then, when my mother got her hands on a nice bunch she would saute them in olive oil, garlic and cut-up cooked potatoes. I make all types of greens in this way today, so easy and a good way to spark up a simply grilled meat or fish entree.
Today, broccoli rabe is a standard vegetable in most grocery stores but tends to cost more per pound than most greens. When they go down to about $1.99 a pound its time to buy.
Broccoli rabe falls into the bitter category of greens. To cut some of the bitterness most recipes suggest cooking the greens in some salted water for a few minutes. I don't think that's necessary and frankly why boil away some of its nutrients. One way to balance the bitter taste is to prepared the greens with other ingredients. Potatoes, like my mother used to do, is a good option. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to saute the greens with Italian sausage, lots of garlic and a dash of pepperoncini flakes. Add in some cooked orecchietti pasta and you have a marvelous entree or satisfying primi piatti course. Take out the Italian sausage and you have a flavorful side vegetable and starch all in one like the recipe I am presenting today.
Broccoli Rabe with Orecchietti Pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. pepperoncini flakes
1/2 lb. orecchietti pasta
salt, to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated
Trim broccoli rabe cutting off the thicker stalks. Rinse well with cool water and drain well or spin dry. Stalks can be either left whole (my preference) or chopped.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Cook only till almost al dente (a minute or two less than directions). No more as pasta will finish cooking when added to the broccoli rabe.When done, remove a 1/2-1 cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta.
While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet and add about 2-3 T. olive oil. When hot, add the garlic and pepperoncini flakes making sure not to burn the garlic. When garlic has begun to soften and is quite fragrant add the broccoli rabe.
Turn down the heat slightly, season with salt and stir mixture. Add about 2 T. water, cover pan and cook till broccoli rabe is almost done (stalks are tender but not soft).
Add the orecchietti to the pan along with some of the reserved pasta water. Continue to saute the mixture till all ingredients are well combined and most of the water has evaporated.
Serve with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.