Friday, October 14, 2011

Broccoli Rabe Orecchiette

I must admit that I am not a very inventive vegetarian cook.  When I start thinking about making a vegetarian entree the first thing that comes to mind is pasta.  Pasta is the best vehicle for vegetarian meals ever.  After pasta I default to soups or a random assortment of items together (for instance, Monday night Alex and I had Momofuku Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette with the leftover vinaigrette from our Momofuku Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette and scrambled eggs for dinner).  I was pretty proud of myself for the vegetarian meal I put together last month of Spinach Salad with Walnuts and Grilled Eggplant with Lebneh.  The meal had a theme and I actually thought it through.  Usually it comes down to what we have in the fridge when I decide that I need to give my system a much needed dose of veggies.  And what we have in the fridge tends to be a little unpredictable at best because I'm a spastic grocery shopper - particularly when you let me loose at a farmers' market.  But this time I had a goal for my vegetarian meal.  I was trying to use up the broccoli rabe I bought at the farmers' market AND use up some of our overabundance of pasta.  Our pasta has started exploding out of our kitchen cabinets again because I keep thinking we are out or seeing a new fun type and buying more.  Oops.  So this one time I didn't just default back to a vegetarian pasta meal - I was specifically aiming to make a vegetarian pasta meal.  Only I decided to throw in some anchovies at the last second, so I guess it's not technically a vegetarian dish, but you can easily omit the anchovies.  I did say they were optional afterall.

This pasta isn't going to win any beauty contests.  Nor is it going to win any accolades for being new and inventive.  And if you don't like broccoli rabe, don't bother with it altogether.  It's a very homey and simple pasta that is easy to throw together.  But I didn't have the time or the energy to put something more complicated together.  It was exactly what I knew it would be.  And yet I have to admit that I spent a lot of the time wishing there was just a little Italian sausage mixed in with the pasta.  I really love broccoli rabe with Italian sausage.  But that would defeat the purpose of making a vegetarian meal.  Granted, anchovies probably defeat that purpose too, but somehow they didn't in my mind when I was conceiving of the dish...

Recipe after the jump!

Broccoli Rabe Orechiette

1/2 lb orecchiette (you can always use another type of pasta)
1/2 lb broccoli rabe, thicker (hollow) parts of the stems discarded, leaves and remaining stems cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tbsp oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
2 anchovies (optional - if you don't use the anchovies, add another large pinch of kosher salt)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water (use a much larger pot and amount of water than you think you will need because you are going to cook the broccoli rabe in there along with the pasta) according to package instructions. When pasta has 4 minutes left to cook, add broccoli rabe.  Cook until pasta is al dente.

Drain pasta and broccoli rabe in a colander and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Meanwhile, heat evoo in a small heavy skillet over moderate heat.  Add garlic, chili flakes and anchovies, stirring frequently, until garlic is pale golden, about 2 minutes.  Pour over pasta and toss to combine.

Sprinkle pasta with parm-reg.  Serve.

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