Which brings me to this excellent pasta that is made often here on a Friday night – or whenever we feel we’d rather not spend too much time at the stove. It is simple and yet, when made well, quite sophisticated and is perfection with a glass or two of crisp white. If anchovies are not your favourite thing, this dish could still be, because as the fillets melt into the olive oil with garlic and chilli, their flavour mellows and they impart only a hint of complex saltiness that is perfect with the broccoli and chewy pasta. Traditionally from Puglia, orecchiette (little ears!) is dense and robust pasta that takes a little longer to cook than spaghetti or penne, but its rough texture and cupped shape means that it picks up simple sauces like no other. In this recipe, the pasta is cooked in the same water as the broccoli to capitalise on the flavour of the vegetable. Smart thinking. Traditionally, this dish is served not with parmesan, but ricotta salata: a dried, salted ricotta that is firm, white and perfect for grating finely. If you don’t have this on hand, parmesan is good too – after all, rushing to shops for one ingredient on a Friday night? I don’t think so.
Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovy and Chilli
Adapted from Tessa Kiros’ Twelve.
5 tbsp olive oil
1 large or 1 smaller garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp dried chilli flakes (more or less to taste)
about 5 Italian anchovy fillets in oil, chopped roughly
200g dried orecchiette
grated ricotta salata or parmesan to taste
Trim the tough outer stem of the broccoli and cook whole pieces in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, but not soft. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl or colander, reserving water. When cool enough to handle, cut the broccoli stem from the head, roughly chop into smaller pieces and return to boiling water. Add orecchiette and give the pot a stir. Cook pasta until al dente, following instructions on your packet (these will vary according to brand, thickness etc). When ready, drain pasta and broccoli stems, reserving half a cup or so of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, separate the heads into smaller florets. Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add garlic, chilli and chopped anchovy fillets and stir with a wooden spoon, mashing the anchovy up a bit as you go until they melt into a sauce. Add the florets and toss through so that they pick up the lovely sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste, remembering the anchovies might already be salty enough. After a few minutes, add the orecchiette and stems along with the reserved water. Toss through gently until it is glistening and smells delicious. Serve with cheese atop, or mixed through to melt a little.
Serves two with a bit left over, or two very hungry people.