This is a fantastic little gem of a dish – a Pasta con Cime di Rapa recipe, which I often cook up at home and is seen in restaurants all over Puglia. It has the ‘amaro’ (bitter) taste that people in Puglia love, and is often served with the typical ‘orecchiette‘ pasta, although I find that any pasta will do, when in the comfort of my own home. So, give it a try and make your own Pasta con Cime di Rapa.
It is a dish with a wide variety of recipes. Every little nonna seems to have their own version. I cook this in the evening normally for my kids. They love it and, for me it is a quick and easy dish to put together, with a great result.
The ‘cime di rapa‘ part is the tops of what might be recognisable in the USA, where it is called ‘Broccoli Rabe‘, but in the UK this is an unknown, I have certainly never seen it. You often see it translated as ‘turnip tops’, but it is definitely not turnips (which incidentally, I never see in Puglia). It is the tops of a plant that looks very similar to broccoli and is a more bitter relative thereof. During the season it can be bought from all local markets and most supermarkets in Puglia.
I’m not going to claim my recipe is authentic as I am not Italian, and can’t claim Italian heritage either. This is just what I like to cook and what I find easy, and most importantly, what my family like!
Pasta (you choose, but I normally avoid long pasta; spaghetti, tagliatelle, fettuccine etc).
80 grams per person, or 120 grams per person, if you like a larger portion!
Cime di Rapa – about 30 grams per person
4 cloves of garlic
Parmesan cheese (to taste)
Chilli Flakes (if you like a little pep)
Pepper (whole peppercorns and ground)
Salt (to taste)
1. First, chop the cime di rapa. I like to cut it quite finely as some parts can be a little woody. Dice the onion and slice the garlic.
2. Put on a large pan on water to boil. Add plenty of salt to the water as this helps the pasta to cook and adds flavour.
3. As the water is starting to heat up, add the cime di rapa, garlic, onion, peppercorns and if you want a spicy edge, chilli flakes.
4. When the water is boiling properly, add the pasta. Briefly put a lid on the saucepan initially to bring the water back to the boil as quickly as possible and then give the pasta a good stir to make sure it does not clump or stick to the bottom.
5. Check the pasta and when it is cooked to your satisfaction remove the pan from the heat. Some people like their pasta almost crunchy, others a little al dente, some even like it sloppy, but I like it definitely al dente, and I tend to just follow the cooking instructions on the pasta if there is any. If you are using fresh pasta, not from a packet, then ask the person you buy it from.
6. Strain the pasta, cime di rapa mixture. I recommend keeping the strained water to add a little back in as stock later in the recipe.
7. Return the pasta, cime di rapa, onion, garlic mixture back into a large pan and add a good glug of olive oil, then put the pan on a low heat/flame.
8. Stir the mixture quite vigorously, at this point I recommend adding a little water, or a bit of the water strained from the pasta, back into the mixture, just to stop it sticking, maybe a ladle-full or two.
9. Add more salt, pepper and chilli to taste, and quite a lot of olive oil. Don’t go too crazy, but certainly don’t hold back too much either!
10. Serve into pasta bowls and grate a good amount of Parmesan over the top.
Hey presto – you have finished. Your very own Pasta con Cime di Rapa. It is tasty, filling and quick. On a good day I can go from chopping to final plate serving in 25 minutes.
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