This recipe comes from Basilicata, located in the instep part of the boot toward the south of Italy. It is a homey dish. In this region pasta, fresh or dried, is made with durum wheat. The recipe in Lidia Bastianich’s book doesn’t call for sausage, but she did have the chefs at the St. Anthony Hotel make it this way. The little bit of pork didn’t hurt the dish at all.
1 ¼ pounds broccoli raab
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot
1 pound ditalini (small shaped pasta)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium-large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1 pound mild Italian sausage, crumbled, browned and drained (if desired)
1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese or half pecorino and half Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing)
For the broccoli raab: Separate the big stems of the bunch, breaking apart any that are attached and trim them one at a time. Slice off the bottom of the stem with a paring knife – just the dried part, where the stem was first cut. With the blade of the knife, lift the outer skin of the stem, starting at you fresh bottom cut, and peel it toward the top in one long strip. Pull off the large, tough leaves attached to the lower stem, too. Peel away more strips of skin (and lower leaves) until only the pale inner stem remains, with all the tender leaves and broccoli raab florets on top. Trim and peel the other stems this way, them chop them all crosswise in short lengths, about 2/3 of an inch or so.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with salted water (at least 6 quarts water with 1 tablespoon salt), and heat it to a boil. When the broccoli raab is trimmed and chopped, begin cooking the pasta and sauce at the same time.
When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, stir in the ditalini, return to a boil and let it cook, stirring occasionally.
Pour 6 tablespoons of the olive oil into the big skillet, set it over medium heat, scatter in the garlic slices and cook for a couple of minutes, until sizzling and starting to color. Sprinkle the peperoncino onto the pan bottom, let it toast for a few seconds, then spill in all the broccoli raab. Raise the heat, spinkle the salt over it, spread and stir the broccoli in the pan and get it cooking. Ladle in about 3 cups of the boiling pasta water, stir with the vegetables and adjust the heat so the water is at a bubbling simmer. Add the cooked sausage to let it warm up in the sauce, if you are making the dish with the meat. Cover the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the broccoli is tender.
[amazon-product]0307267512[/amazon-product]Uncover the pan and immediately scoop the ditalini from the pasta pot with a spider or large strainer. The pasta should be undercooked slightly. Spill them into the simmering sauce. Stir the pasta with the broccoli and other ingredients until the ditalini have become perfectly al dente and the sauce has thickened. It should have a soupy, but not watery, consistency. (If the ditalini need more cooking, keep the skillet covered. If they are almost al dente when they go into the skillet, cook uncovered to reduce the sauce quickly.)
When pasta and sauce are done, turn off the heat, sprinkle the cup of grated cheese on top and stir it in. Serve immediately in warm bowls with more cheese for sprinkling on the side.
Makes 6 servings.
From “Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes”by Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali