Traditional recipes

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Add the broccoli and cook until tender and still juicy, and crushes when pressed between thumb and forefinger, 2-3 minutes. (Do not overcook; the broccoli will cook again in the olive oil.) Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Then, add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and fry, stirring until golden, about 30 seconds. Set aside on absorbent paper.

Then, combine the oil, garlic, red chile pepper flakes, and chopped anchovy in a large skillet. Place over low heat and cook until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes. (Or, if using the sausage, cook the garlic for only 1 minute until softened but not colored. Then, add the sausage and cook for 1 minute.)

Drain the pasta, reserving about 2 cups of the cooking water. Add the cooked broccoli rabe to the skillet, season with salt, to taste, and toss. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the drained orecchiette to the skillet with enough reserved pasta water to bathe the pasta. Simmer until most of the water is evaporated and the pasta is cooked. (You should see a little emulsified liquid surrounding the pasta.) Adjust the seasoning to taste. Toss with the cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the pasta and serve.

Recipe Summary

  • 2 ½ bunches broccoli rabe
  • 1 (16 ounce) package orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
  • 3 Italian pork sausages, casings removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 ounce shaved Pecorino cheese, or more to taste

Bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Cut 1 to 1 1/2 inches off of the bottom of the broccoli rabe stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch sections.

Place trimmed broccoli rabe and orecchiette into the boiling water and boil until pasta is tender, 12 to 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add sausage and cook for 6 minutes stir in garlic and cook until sausage is browned and crumbly, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Heat a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Stir in bread crumbs. Cook until browned and crunchy, about 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta pot. Add drained broccoli rabe and orecchiette to the sausage. Add red pepper flakes and 1/2 of the bread crumbs and stir well.

Transfer 1/2 the pasta mixture to a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 the Pecorino cheese. Add remaining pasta mixture to the bowl and top with remaining cheese mix well. Top with remaining bread crumbs.


To trim the broccoli rabe, trim off the very bottom of the stems. Starting with the bottom of the stalk, use a paring knife to peel away any tough fibers up the stalk. Cut the broccoli rabe into 2-to 3-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the broccoli rabe and the pasta. Add the broccoli rabe and boil until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with tongs to a colander to drain.

Add the orecchiette to the boiling water once you start the sauce. For the sauce, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the anchovies. Cook and stir until the anchovies begin to dissolve, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just golden, about 1 minute. Add the drained broccoli rabe and season with salt and the peperoncino, toss to coat the broccoli rabe in the oil. Add 1 ½ cups pasta cooking water and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by about half, about 4 minutes.

When the pasta is al dente, remove with a spider directly to the sauce. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and toss to coat, adding a little more pasta water if it seems dry. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe - Recipes

Orecchiette, which means "little ears," a not inapt description of shape, are the heraldic pasta form of Puglia, but are found today all over central and southern Italy, from Abruzzo to Basilicata. In their home regions, orecchiette are usually homemade, shaped with a well-practiced thumb, but the dried version, widely available, is very good. When this dish is made outside Italy, the broccoli rabe often competes equally with the pasta for plate space, but in Italy it is usually just an accent. It is common in Puglia to shower the finished orecchiette not with cheese but with toasted bread crumbs -- once a common substitute for cheese in poorer households.

1/2 pound broccoli rabe, finely chopped

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated ricotta salata or toasted bread crumbs, homemade or commercial, for serving

Put the broccoli rabe into a large pot of salted cold water. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. When it is boiling, raise the heat to high and add the orecchiette. Cook until the pasta is al dente, 8 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat together the oil and anchovy fillets in a small pan over medium heat.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and the greens and transfer them to a warmed serving bowl. Pour the anchovy oil over the top and season generously with pepper if necessary, add a little salt. Pass the cheese at the table.

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the broccoli rabe and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Use tongs to remove the greens and the chop into 1⁄2" pieces.
  3. Return the water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.
  4. While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add the sausage and cook for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned, then add the garlic and pepper flakes and sauté for another 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the chopped broccoli rabe and chicken stock and lower the heat to a simmer.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Drain the pasta and toss immediately into the pan with the sausage and greens.
  9. Toss the pasta (if the mix looks dry, use a bit of the pasta cooking water to loosen it up).
  10. Serve immediately with freshly grated cheese.

Eat This Tip

A serving size of pasta in Italy is about 6 ounces here, many restaurant noodle bowls top 2 pounds. We've used more modest serving sizes for the noodles in the book's pasta recipes, but kept the sauce portions more substantial. That means the pasta-to-sauce ratio will skew toward the latter, which makes for a more satisfying meal for fewer calories.

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

Orecchiette with Broccolini

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe (orecchiette con cime di rapa) is a signature pasta dish from the Puglia region of southern Italy. The bitterness of rabe is challenging for some palates, so we use sweeter, milder broccolini. However, if you like the assertiveness of rabe, it can easily be used in place of the broccolini, though rabe will cook a little more quickly. We boil the pasta in a minimal amount of water, then the starchy liquid that remains becomes the base for the sauce that marries the orecchiette and broccolini. A finishing sprinkle of toasted seasoned breadcrumbs adds a crisp texture.


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Trim the ends of the broccoli rabe stalks and slice any thick stalks in half lengthwise. Cut the stalks on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces (with the leaves attached). Boil the pasta according to the package directions until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and pepper flakes until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Avoid browning the garlic. Add the broccoli rabe, 1 teaspoon salt, lemon juice and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking water. Add the cooked pasta to the broccoli rabe in the skillet and stir in the ricotta cheese. Add most of the cooking water to moisten, using all of it if needed. Serve with Garlic Bread Crumbs sprinkled on top.

Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa

Stretched between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Puglia’s sun-soaked landscape in southern Italy is celebrated for its signature dish, orecchiette with broccoli rabe. The pasta’s “little ears,” as “orecchiette” translates, are the perfect shape to scoop up the chunkier sauce. Pair this dish with a glass of Primitivo or Aglianico wine for a perfectly traditional Pugliese meal.

Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa (Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe)
Recipe courtesy of Eataly

For the fresh pasta*:
1 cup durum semolina flour
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

*If you prefer dry pasta:
8 ounces dry orecchiette

For the sauce:
10 ounces broccoli rabe, rinsed & chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil , plus more for drizzling
¼ cup grated aged pecorino, preferably from Puglia
Crushed red pepper flakes , to taste
1 clove garlic
Sea salt , to taste

To prepare the fresh orecchiette:
In a medium bowl, whisk the two flours together. Mound the flour on a work surface, and make a well in the center.

Place about 2 tablespoons of room-temperature water in the well. With two fingers, stir in some of the flour off the walls and into the center. When the water has been absorbed, repeat with more water, always adding small amounts, until you have a soft dough. (You will probably need between 2/3 cup and 1 cup water.)

Knead the dough until it is smooth and soft, about 10 minutes. If it crumbles while you are kneading, wet your hands a few times to incorporate a small amount of additional liquid.

Lightly flour a baking sheet, and set aside. Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball, and put the remaining dough under an overturned bowl, to keep it from drying out. On the work surface, roll the piece of dough into a rope about ½ inch wide.

Use a knife to slice off a disk about 1 1/8 inch wide, and pull the disk away from the rope of dough, pressing it against the work surface. Then lift up the disk and invert it over a fingertip. It should be shaped like a little hat with a rolled “brim” all around the perimeter. Transfer the shaped pasta to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough.

To prepare the dish:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and cook the broccoli rabe until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon, and run under cold water. Squeeze as much water as possible out of the broccoli rabe, and chop roughly. Set aside.

Let the water return to a boil, then add the orecchiette and cook until it floats to the surface (if fresh) or until it is al dente (if dry, about 12 minutes or according to package instructions).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan. Peel and crush the garlic clove, sauté until browned, then remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the pan, along with the remaining olive oil and the chopped broccoli rabe. Toss over medium heat until combined, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle on the grated cheese and crushed red pepper flakes, and toss to combine. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and serve immediately.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe (Orecchiette ai broccoletti)

A quick pasta dish with vegetables that you can whip up in less an 30 minutes, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe makes for a fine meatless dinner, with cheese and fruit for dessert. It’s pretty typical of the kind of thing we like to eat in our house on a weeknight when there’s not much time to make dinner. The pasta is orecchiette or “little ears”, a pasta typical of Puglia, the region of Italy that my grandpa Fariello came from. Little disks of pasta made from durum wheat and water are pressed with the thumb so they come out concave, giving them the appearance of little ears—well, at least, if you apply some imagination.


  • 400g (14 oz) orecchiette (see Notes)
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (about 400g/14 oz), roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers, or a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


Boil the orecchiette and broccoli rabe together in well salted boiling water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, lightly sauté the garlic, chili pepper and anchovy fillets in olive oil. Don’t allow the garlic or the red pepper to brown too much or it will turn bitter. (If using the red pepper flakes, add them only a few moments before you’re done with the sauté, as they burn very quickly.) Turn off the heat.

When the orecchiette and broccoli rabe are done, transfer them and the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon into the seasoned oil. (For a more ‘refined’ dish, you can remove the garlic and chili pepper but I never bother.) Simmer everything together, mixing as you go, until the pasta and broccoli rabe are well seasoned by the oil. The broccoli rabe should have more or less disintegrated by now into a kind of ‘sauce’. (This is definitely not nouvelle cuisine!) Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste, if need be.

Serve your orecchiette with broccoli rabe piping hot, drizzling a bit more olive oil on top of each portion if you like. This is not a dish that calls for any kind of grated cheese.

Notes on Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Once a rarity, these days fresh orecchiette can be found at better supermarkets and many Italian food shops. They are, unfortunately, quite expensive as real ones have to be made by hand. You can find imported dried orecchiette, also quite expensive, but quite good if thoroughly cooked. You can also find what I could imitation orecchiette—basically regular pasta secca cut into a concave shape to look something like orecchiette. But I don’t bother with them if you can’t find real orecchiette, or would rather not pay that much for pasta, I find it better to use another kind of short pasta that can hold the broccoli rabe, like rigatoni or conchiglie (shells). Or, for the ultimate experience, you can make your own fellow blogger Michelle Capobianco of Majella Home Cooking just wrote a superb post on making orecchiette at home with great instructions.

Dried orecchiette and broccoli rabe take about the same time to cook, generally about 10 minutes or perhaps a bit more, depending on the thickness and age of the pasta. Freshly made orecchiette take less time, only about 5 minutes or so, so boil the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes or so before adding the pasta to the pot. If you have some extra time, some people like to boil the broccoli rabe separately, draining and adding it to the seasoned oil, then boiling the pasta in the same pot as the broccoli rabe. The water will lend more flavor to the pasta that way, and you can better control how well cooked your vegetable is. Personally, I find the difference in taste and texture is minimal, not enough to justify the extra time it takes.

You can use the same method for cooking orecchiette with broccoli rabe using cauliflower, in which case, add a little chopped parsley for color). They can also be sauced with ricotta cheese softened with a wooden spoon or a lightly cooked marinara-type tomato sauce into which a dab of ricotta is mixed at the last minute. I’ve also heard of (but never made) orecchiette with clams or mussels. Since orecchiette have recently become ‘chic’, you’ll also find all sorts of fancy recipes for orecchiette around with goat cheese and asparagus and such. Orecchiette are typically cucina povera and I find such extravagances absolutely absurd.

Post scriptum. By the way, broccoletti is the Roman word for broccoli rabe. Since I lived in Rome, that’s the word that always comes to mind, but in Puglia itself, orecchiette with broccoli rabe is orecchiette con cime di rape (literally ‘turnip tops’) and that’s the more common term among Italian-Americans as well.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Italian Sausage

Toss &ldquolittle ear&rdquo pasta with flavorful Italian sausage, fresh broccoli rabe and Parmesan cheese to create this tasty Italian classic.


  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 8 ounces orecchiette
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces Fresh to Market Mild Italian Sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Bring 8 quarts of heavily salted water to boil. Blanch broccoli rabe in boiling water for 45-60 seconds, then remove (reserving blanching liquid) and shock in an ice water bath. When cool, chop broccoli rabe into ½-inch pieces.

Bring blanching liquid to a low boil, add pasta and cook according to directions on the package.

Heat sauté pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add sausage to the hot pan and break into bite-sized pieces. Cook until well-browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Add garlic and chili flakes, and shake the pan to brown the garlic. Add broccoli rabe and toss the water clinging to the rabe will help deglaze the pan. If water evaporates too quickly, add ¼ cup of the blanching liquid to the pan to deglaze. Use a spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Strain pasta and immediately transfer into the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture. Toss with half the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat and add remaining olive oil. Garnish with remaining Parmesan and serve.

Techniques used in this recipe:

Pair with


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