Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Pasta's Always Greener

Casarecce con Cime di Rapa, Peperone Rosso & Ricotta Salata
Casarecce with Broccoli Rabe, Red Pepper & Salted Ricotta

Casarecce are one of my favorite pasta shapes. They are great carriers for any sauced pasta dishes, or even this simple but delicious broccoli rabe preparation... somehow all of that yumminess in the pan just clings to them in the most wonderful way!

Along with the sweetness of the pepper and shallot, the broccoli rabe has that great, deep, rich, bittersweet flavor that is unmistakable in Italian cuisine and that we down South especially love... and even more so when it is covered in amazingly rich salted ricotta! Oh my goodness! What's not to love?!?


Don't you just love the wonderfully rich green color that the pasta takes on by the time if is fully cooked? It transforms the whole dish completely and gives it the tricolors of the Italian flag- how fitting! And how cool!

As is typical for me, this dish called for very little of very few, very simple ingredients.

1 small and tender bunch of croccolia rabe, or cime di rapa as it is known in Italy, 1 small, sweet red pepper, 1 shallot, some salted Ricotta cheese for grating, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. That is the beauty of Italian cooking- you need so little to make something so special!

Broccoli rabe may not be for everyone, as it is much stronger tasting and more bitter than regular broccoli... but that is what makes it so special!

On the other hand- if you do not like bitter flavors- then use the same method and substitute the rabe with regular broccoli. As with everything in the world of food- it is all a question of taste!


Preparation couldn't be easier- pop your saucepan onto the stove top with plenty of salted water for the pasta and whilst it comes up to the boil, rinse the broccoli rabe and the pepper and cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and the pepper into small strips. Don't worry for a second about the size of the broccoli leaves... they are not too big.... you'll see in just 5 minutes or so! Cut the shallot into thin slices, pop a dash of olive oil into your frying pan... and you are ready to get this show on the road!


Pop the pasta and the broccoli rabe into the same saucepan and boil for 5 minutes... and in the meantime, get busy with the peppers and the shallot...


Fry the peppers and shallot together in olive oil until they both become soft and the shallot becomes translucent and starts to caramelize and gently turn brown.


After 5 minutes of cooking time, add the pasta and greens to the frying pan with plenty of the water they have been boiling in- enough to well cover the base of the frying pan.

Finish cooking and stirring together for the next 3-4 minutes. You will find that after a minute or two, the leaves of the broccoli rabe, which of course are the tenderest part, will disintegrate and turn into a smooth paste together with the remaining pasta-water... and this in turn will be soaked-up by those lovely casarecce... and this is what turns them so wonderfully green!

Add a last drizzle of olive oil before serving, grind with fresh pepper and grate with salted Ricotta for a dish full of the taste of the South!

This is pasta for grown-ups- but that hint of bitterness is what it's all about! pair it with a nice red wine and you have a great, authentic dinner- as quick and easy as can be!


Yes, yes and thrice yes to this! And do you know what? I will even say yes one more time... I like this that much!


If your pasta dishes are much more complicated than this... you need to re-think them! And if they are filled with butter and cream and stocks and other such things to give them flavor- they are probably not Italian!

Now... excuse me whilst I eat a little more... or better still- make some of your own and join me!

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