Orecchiette with Sprouting Broccoli

This is a famous Sicilian dish, which I learnt to love when we lived there.

Ingredients

  • lb orecchiette (little ears)
  • ¾ cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese (optional)

For the Sauce

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lb sprouting broccoli or broccoli rabe, broken into florets
  • 4 oz salted anchovies or 2 oz canned anchovy fillets, drained
  • 2 lb fresh tomatoes or lb canned peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Small piece of fresh hot red chili pepper, chopped
  • ¼ onion, minced
  • ¼ cup golden or dark raisins, soaked in tepid water to plump up
  • cup pine nuts

Method

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add salt, then the broccoli. Cook for about 3 minutes, boiling briskly. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and keep on one side. Keep the pan of water to cook the pasta later.

If using salted anchovies, soak them in cold water for about 20 minutes before using. Chop the anchovies, whether salted or canned.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, put them in boiling water for a minute, then drain and peel them. Whether fresh or canned tomatoes, remove the seeds and liquid, shake them dry, and chop them up.

Put half the oil in a frying pan, add 1 whole clove of garlic and the chopped red chili, and fry fairly briskly until the garlic turns golden. Take the garlic out. Add the chopped anchovies and tomatoes to the oil in the pan. Season with a little salt, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. If at the end of this time the sauce seems too thin, boil briskly for a few minutes to thicken.

Put the rest of the oil in a second frying pan and add the minced onion and the second clove of garlic. Cook over moderate heat until the garlic turns golden, then remove it. Add the cooked broccoli, the raisins, and the pine nuts. Season with a very little salt and a fair amount of black pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes over a medium heat, stirring with 2 forks to avoid breaking the florets. Then add the contents of this pan to the tomato sauce. Mix gently and keep hot.

Back to the saucepan where you boiled the broccoli: Bring the water to a boil and add the orecchiette. When the pasta are cooked, drain well. Place them in a nice heated serving dish, a little at a time in layers interspersed with the sauce. In this way the pasta and the sauce can mix well together with less risk of breaking the broccoli florets. If you are using grated cheese, this, too, should go in in layers.

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