Citizens, it is my great pleasure to share with you one of my favorite rustic pasta dishes from Italy, from the mighty southern region of Apulia (aka Puglia)!
Orecchiette (from the Italian orecchia, meaning ‘ear’, and -etta, meaning ‘small’) are a variety of homemade pasta typical of Apulia, a region of southern Italy. Their name comes from their shape, which resembles a small ear. In the vernacular of Taranto it is called recchietedd, or chiancaredd. A slightly flatter version is called cencioni, while in the vernacular of Bari strascinate are more similar to cavatelli.
As noted on the fantastic food blog splendidtable.com:
In the seaside town of Bari down in Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, the orecchiette makers are out in force every morning, lining the stone-paved streets of vecchia Bari, the oldest part of this very old town. With quick, deft gestures, these ladies shape dabs of durum-and-water dough by hand into orecchiette (the name means “little ears”), small, thumb-print pasta shapes that are then set out to dry in the open air on big wooden trays. Shoppers passing by on their way home from the market make their selection, buying orecchiette by the kilo for the family lunch.
Alla barese, in the Bari style, always means this favorite preparation, made with the spicy greens called broccoli rabe or rapini in America, a little garlic, a pinch of chili pepper, and a few anchovies for the salt. Broccoli rabe is widely available in supermarket produce sections, but if by chance you can’t find it, you may substitute another pungent autumnal green such as mustard greens, collards or even Chinese broccoli. Patience Gray, who lived for many years in the Salentino, the tip end of the heel of the Italian boot, told us that cooks there sometimes made a similar dish using wild foraged arugula, but in that case they added a handful of pungent local cheese, grated on top.
Packaged orecchiette are easy to find, but you could substitute farfalle, conchiglie (small shells), or fusilli (corkscrews).
Citizens, my version of this classic recipe hews very closely to the original recipe, but calls for a bit of turnip greens for bitterness and my favored proportions of spices. There is very little to improve on here – I am confident you will enjoy it! 🙂
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