Monday, October 17, 2011

Orecchiette With Sausage and Broccoli Rabe; The Women of Southern Italy Lend An 'Ear' (and a Thumb) To Make A Great Pasta

I've experimented with and posted a couple of pastas on 'The Daily Suse'—all of them delicious. Really, who doesn't love a great pasta? This weekend, we had the opportunity to try something new: orecchiette. Orecchiette is a kind of pasta typical of the Southern Italy regions of Puglia or Apulia. The name comes from the Italian word for ear (orecchio), and the suffix (etto) which means small.

An orecchietta looks like a small disc with its center thinner than its edge. The surface is a bit rough. This pasta is made with durum wheat, water and salt, but eggs are rarely used its the preparation. In the spring, Southern Italian women of every age, sit outdoors shaping the dough into small cylinders that are cut into small cubes. Their right thumb is used to press down on the cubes, dragging it to give it a small curl. Then the thumb is pressed on the reverse side giving the pasta its slight bulge.

Orecchiette is usually combined with vegetables and this recipe from the cookbook of chef Lidia Bastianich does just that with some sausage thrown in for fun. The pasta was a hearty fare perfect for a chilly night in the country and with some brick oven baked bread, caesar salad and red wine, the evening with a group of friends was cozy and memorable

Orecchiette With Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
From "Lidia's Italian Table: Italian American Favorites"
1 cup chicken stock (or canned broth)
1 lb orecchiette (pictured left)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed (large)
1 1/2 lbs broccoli rabe, florets and tender stems only
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, cooked & crumbled
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, freshly grated

  • Bring the chicken stock to a boil. 
  • Cook the orecchiette in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain well. 
  • Heat the oil In a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until golden. Add the broccoli rabe, crushed red pepper and salt; cover and steam for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the hot chicken stock, sausage and butter and cook over high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add the orecchiette to the skillet and toss gently. Sprinkle half the Parmigiano on top and toss again. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

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