Use two kinds of broccoli in this recipe; sweet, mild broccolini (or substitute with standard broccoli florets) and Italian rapini (also known as broccoli rabe and cime di rapa), which is much leafier, with small florets and an assertive, bitter flavor. Mixed together in the sauce, they achieve a nice balance. Orecchiette with Creamy Broccolini & Rapini Sauce.
- 1 bunch broccolini, stalks trimmed
- 1 bunch rapini, stalks trimmed
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup cream
- ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano cheese
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs, fried in olive oil and seasoned to taste
- 1 pound dried orecchiette pasta
Bring water to a depth of about ½ in to a boil in a steamer pan placed over medium-high heat. Arrange the broccolini on the steamer rack, place the rack in the pan, cover, and steam the broccolini for 4 to 5 minutes, or until bright green. Transfer the florets to a bowl and set aside.
Check the water in the steamer pan, and add more as needed until it is ½ in deep. Bring to a boil, put the rapini on the steamer rack, cover, and steam for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the leaves and florets are wilted. Transfer to the bowl holding the broccoli.
Warm ¼ cup of the olive oil and the garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add the broccolini and rapini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables and garlic are very tender. Stir in the salt and cayenne pepper and raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, or until some of the wine has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables and their cooking liquid to a blender or food processor, add the remaining ¼ cup oil, and puree until smooth. Gradually add the broth, about ¼ cup at a time, and process until the puree is the consistency of a thick sauce. You should have about 3 cups sauce.
Return the sauce to the sauté pan and place over low heat. Stir in the cream and heat until warmed through. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the orecchiette and stir to separate, cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl and spoon about two-thirds of the sauce over it. Toss gently to combine the pasta and sauce thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.