There are few things as therapeutic as making pasta by hand. I was watching Mario Batali over the weekend on the Cooking Channel and was impressed and inspired by his handmade Orecchiette with broccoli rabe. The Orecchiette was rustic, fun to make and delicious!
Orecchiette Made with Semolina
2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1 1/4 cups tepid water
Place both types of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Roll the dough into long dowels about 3 to 4 inches thick. Cut the dough into flat disks about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Press the center of each disk with your thumb to form saucer-shaped pasta. Place the orecchiette on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months.
I left the pasta on the baking sheet, put it in the freezer overnight, then transferred the frozen pasta to ziploc bags. I set out to make the complete dish the following night, using a portion of the pasta I had made. Batali states that he prefers to braise the Broccoli Rabe, and I followed his lead. Personally, I found the broccoli almost too bitter when prepared this way and I really enjoy bitter greens. Next time I would stick with my usual method of quickly blanching the veggie first. Although left out in this variation, orecchiette with rabe commonly has crumbled Italian sausage in it as well, and since I had some leftover I crumbled it in for extra protein for Kevin.
Broccoli Rabe Sauce
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 crushed tomatoes and their juices
1 pound pasta, cooked
Pinch of chili flakes
Aged Pecorino di Roma for serving
In a large saute pan heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add the onion, then the garlic. Let them get soft but not browned. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe and add to the pan. Season with salt and toss with the onions and garlic. Add 1/4 cup pasta cooking water and a splash of olive oil. Let cook for 2 minutes, then push to 1 side of the pan and add the tomatoes to the other side. Reduce the tomatoes for 2 minutes, then toss together with the broccoli rabe. Add cooked pasta, pinch of chili flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil. Grate some Pecorino di Roma onto the pasta and toss to coat for 1 minute Divide evenly among 6 warm pasta bowls, grate more cheese over each bowl and serve immediately.