In Puglia, the sun-soaked heel of Italy’s boot, one pasta shape dominates. Named after the ‘little ears’ that each shape is said to resemble, orecchiette (pronounced oh-reck-ee-ET-tay) are a prime example of the region’s simple, rustic cuisine. From a vegan pasta dough of flour, water and salt, Pugliese nonne have been hand-rolling orecchiette since the 12th century. Even today, in the cobbled old town of the region’s capital, Bari, women craft orecchiette on tables along la strada delle orecchiette (an unofficial, but fitting moniker).
Puglia’s classic and most authentic orecchiette dish is orecchiette con cime di rapa – which sees the shape paired with a sauce of garlic, anchovies and cime di rapa. Known in the UK as turnip tops or rapini, cime di rapa has a mustardy, slightly-bitter flavour profile. Once boiled, its bitter-sweetness comes to the fore – making it a perfect match for this salty, savoury sauce.
Although it’s popping up more and more in greengrocers and farmers markets, cime di rapa can sometimes be hard to find in the UK. If you’re struggling to source it, chard, kale and spring greens are all good substitutes.
Our orecchiette con cime di rapa recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes (plus 1 hour to make the fresh pasta)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Calories per serving: 462kcal
For the pasta
- 400g durum wheat semolina flour
- 160ml luke-warm water
- A pinch of salt
(Alternatively, you can use 400g dried orecchiette)
For the sauce
- 500g turnip tops, tough stalks trimmed and cut into 4cm lengths
- 8 anchovies
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 50g pecorino cheese, grated (optional)
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
Chef’s tip: If you want to keep this dish vegan, you can leave out the pecorino cheese and anchovies.
Step 1: Make your pasta
Check out our guide to making orecchiette, or follow along with Chef Roberta in the video below.
Step 2: Prepare your sauce
- Put a large pan of water on to boil for your pasta.
- Put half of the olive oil in a wide frying pan with the anchovies and garlic, then put on a low heat.
- Warm gently for 6 minutes, or until the anchovies dissolve. Add the chilli flakes, then take the pan off the heat.
Step 3: Cook the pasta and greens, then combine
- Once the pan of water boils, add salt, then throw in the turnip tops and stir.
- If you’re using fresh pasta, let the turnip tops boil for 5 minutes, then add the orecchiette and cook for another 3 minutes.
- If you’re using dried pasta, add it at the same time as the turnip tops and cook for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions.
- Drain your pasta and turnip tops, saving some pasta water, then add them to the anchovy and garlic pan and place over a medium heat.
- Toss everything together with a ladle or two of pasta water, until the pasta is well coated.
- Serve drizzled with the remaining olive oil and a dusting of grated cheese, if using.