Orecchiette alle cime di rapa (recipe)

Recipe #2 in my new vegitalian series

Making pasta at home can seem like a real drag, especially if it involves making hundreds of hand-shaped creations, like tortellini or orecchiette. However, the moment you put the first one in your mouth will dispel all doubt. The taste and texture, coupled with the tremendous feeling of self satisfaction, will have you reaching for the flour and apron before you’ve even finished what is on your plate.

I first learned to make orecchiette with Matilde Guido in her kitchen in Lecce, Puglia. Since then I’ve been practising my technique and experimenting with the combination of flours.

orecchiette
Homemade orecchiette

Orecchiette are, perhaps most famously, served with cime di rape, usually called turnip tops in English. The are, however, the buds, leaves, and bright-yellow flowers of the brassica rapa sylvestris plant. The buds look like broccoli, although they are not related, and in Rome they are called broccoletti because of this. In Naples they are known as friarelli.

cime di rapa
Cime di rapa flowers
cime di rapa
Cime di rapa

Like all classics, this is a really simple dish where the resulting taste is much more than the sum of its parts. I’m including my recipe for orecchiette here, but not the technique which you can find online in videos such as this one from Pasta Grannies. Better still, as soon as the lock-down is over, book a weekend at Matilde’s house—she does B&B—and learn to make them from her directly.

Orecchiette alle cime di rapa

More vegitalian food in the shape of orecchiette alle cime di rapa, one of the most famous dishes from Italy's Puglia region. Print This
Serves: 4
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • For the pasta:

  • 200g (2 cups) semola di grano duro

  • 100g (1 cup) 00 flour

  • water

  • For the condiment:

  • 2 large bunches of cime di rapa

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled

  • 1 red bird's eye chilli, finely chopped

  • salt

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Instructions

  1. Mix the flours together in a large bowl. 
  2. Add water, little by little, and incorporate with your hands until the pasta comes together into a ball, leaving the sides of the bowl clean. 
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 20 minutes. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour. 
  4. Shape the dough into orecchiette. 
  5. Wash the cime di rapa under cold running water and then collect the leaves, flowers, and buds, discarding the large tough stems. 
  6. Tear the leaves into smaller pieces. 
  7. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the leaves, flowers, and buds. Leave them for about one minute and then drain. 
  8. In a frying pan, gently heat the oil with the whole clove of garlic. Add the chopped chilli and continue to cook gently for a few minutes, being careful not to burn anything.
  9. Add the cime di rapa, salt to taste and gently cook them for a further five minutes. Then, remove the garlic clove and discard. 
  10. Cook the orecchiette in plenty of salted boiling water. (For every 100g (3 1/2 ounces) of pasta use 1 (2 pints) litre of water and one teaspoon of rock salt.) When they float to the top of the water, continue cooking for about 2 minutes and then drain. 
  11. Mix the condiment with the pasta and serve with a little fresh parmesan-style vegetarian cheese. 

6 thoughts on “Orecchiette alle cime di rapa (recipe)”

  1. thank you for the explanation of cime di rapa. i didn’t realise that was what friarelli were. i love the stuff.

    1. Luca Marchiori

      Not being Neapolitan, I always assumed friarelli were the same as frigitelli (green peppers similar to padron peppers) until a friend from Naples put me right. It can be really confusing that different regions have different names, but then they were different countries until just over 150 years ago.

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