Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

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Orecchiette with broccoli rabe is an Italian pasta recipe typical of Apulian cuisine, in particular from the province of Bari.

Broccoli rabe is a common vegetable of the fall/winter season with an intense, slightly bitter flavor. Orecchiette are a type of pasta symbol of Puglia region. The word “Orecchiette” means “small ear” due to its round and concave shape.

For an excellent result of the orecchiette with broccoli rabe recipe, you have to take care of the quality of the raw materials. It’s essential that the pasta has the right roughness and consistency and that the broccoli is fresh and crispy.

orecchiette with broccoli rabe recipe

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe is a traditional dish of Italian cucina povera, simple but with a unique taste that comes from the union of strong flavors. In addition to broccoli, there are also garlic, anchovies and hot chili pepper that give this recipe a unique and strong flavor.

If you love vegetable-based pasta dishes, try this recipe. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe is a nutritious and light dish but with a rich, flavorful taste that is really unique! It will be a hit!

orecchiette with broccoli rabe recipe

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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Recipe

  • Prep Time : 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Min
  • Servings: 4


PLEASE NOTE: the quantity of garlic, anchovies in oil and hot chilli pepper are only indicative. You can dose these ingredients according to your tastes. An essential element of the recipe is the scent of garlic which can be more or less intense according to your tastes (more/less garlic – chopped or left whole).


orecchiette with broccoli rabe step 1 (1)

Step 1) – First clean the broccoli rabe by removing the thicker outer leaves and tougher stems. Then wash them well in cold water to remove scraps and impurities. Use the most tender parts of both the leaves and the “cimette” (florets). Drain well and set aside.

Then finely mince the garlic or reduce it to a paste with a garlic masher. Chop the red hot chili pepper as well.

orecchiette with broccoli rabe step 2 (1)

Step 2) – Now heat them in a large skillet with 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Sauté the garlic together with the chilli pepper, making sure they don’t burn.

After 2/3 minutes, add the anchovy fillets and melt them in the hot oil. Depending on your taste you can remove garlic or leave it (see the note above). Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.

orecchiette with broccoli rabe step 3 (1)

Step 3) – Boil some water with coarse salt in a very large pot, so that it can contain both orecchiette and broccoli rabe. Using the same cooking water allows you to further flavor the pasta as it will absorb the flavor of the broccoli rabe.

Now if you are using DRIED ORECCHIETTE, their cooking time is about 12 minutes: boil the orecchiette and after 5 minutes add the broccoli rabe.

But if you are using FRESH ORECCHIETTE, their cooking time is shorter: cook them together with the broccoli rabe for 6/7 minutes.

orecchiette with broccoli rabe step 4 (1)

Step 4) – Drain the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and transfer them to the pan with oil, garlic, hot pepper and anchovies.

Pan-fry them for a few minutes, just to dry the excess water. Stir with a spoon but try not to break the broccoli rabe too much. They must not become a cream, on the contrary, they must remain leafy.

As soon as the water on the bottom has dried, the orecchiette with broccoli rabe are ready. Finally, we recommend adding a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil before serving.

Read also the version with breadcrumbs or the one with cheese in the paragraph below!

orecchiette with broccoli rabe recipe


Orecchiette with broccoli rabe are best eaten as soon as they are ready, while they are still hot.

If you can’t finish them and they are leftover, you can store them in the refrigerator sealed in a food container for up to 1 day.

Reheat in the microwave adding a drizzle of oil or 1 tablespoon of warm water to soften them.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe: Variants

We have shown you the traditional dish, the recipe in its classic version. But like any traditional recipe, even the Orecchiette with Broccoli rabe have some variations linked to the territory and local Italian traditions. Let’s see some of them.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Crispy Bread Crumbs

Very popular is the variant which involves the addition of toasted breadcrumbs.

orecchiette with broccoli rabe and breadcrumbs (1) (1)

Pour a drop of oil into a pan and then add 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, not too finely chopped. Toast it over medium heat until the bread has completely absorbed the oil and is crispy.

Sprinkle it generously on the finished dish. The bread gives a crunchy note to this really delicious recipe!

orecchiette with broccoli rabe recipe and breadcrumbs

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Another common and widely used combination in southern Italian recipes is orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. 

Following the recipe described above, add about 250 g (9 oz) of crumbled sausage to the garlic and chilli pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. Obviously in this variant you don’t have to add the anchovy.

This variant with sausage makes the dish richer and more substantial and can also be considered as a single dish.

You can find even broccoli rabe and sausage served as a single, complete dish, without pasta but matched with slices of bread.

The very same combination of chopped sausage and broccoli rabe can be a garnish for your pizza and/or focaccia. 

sausage and broccoli rabe

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Cheese

The authentic Bari recipe for orecchiette with broccoli rabe does not call for the addition of cheese at the end, just a drizzle of raw oil.

In reality it’s customary for many to add grated Parmigiano or Pecorino. This makes the dish tastier and more seasoned.

Often the Apulians add Burrata to complete the dish. Burrata is a typical cheese of Puglia. It’s similar to Mozzarella externally, but inside it has a creamy heart of cream and is a real delight!

orecchiette with broccoli rabe and cheese

What are Broccoli Rabe?

First things first: Broccoli rabe is not broccoli. It’s actually more closely related to a turnip, even though it has those little buds, similar to those found on broccoli florets.

Also known as “rapini”, broccoli rabe is not just the scraggly outcroppings of a broccoli plant or baby broccoli, like you might think. In fact, the leafy, cruciferous vegetable is closely related to the turnip. The deliciously bitter stems, leaves and nutty, broccoli-esque buds are all edible and commonly used in Italian cooking.

The Broccoli rabe are called “friarielli” in Campania, “broccoletti” in Rome and “rapini” in Tuscany, “cime di rapa” in Puglia. In Italy they grown in southern regions, mainly in Puglia and in Campania.

broccoli rabe

They are very popular as a winter vegetable. Many think that friarielli and broccoli rabe are different vegetables. Instead the friarielli are the freshly blooming buds of the broccoli rabe.

Traditionally, they cook broccoli rabe with a little garlic in olive oil and eat them together with pasta (in Puglia they prefer the Orecchiette pasta), but also with rice, fish or meat. Dressed with oil and vinegar, they are also good raw as a salad.

Among the main nutrients contained in broccoli rabe are mineral, salts and vitamin C, as well as antioxidant polyphenols.

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