This orecchiette with broccoli recipe (orecchiette con broccoli) feels incredibly indulgent! This dish is from Puglia, a beautiful southern region. Puglia occupies the heel of the boot, separated from Calabria by the region of Basilicata. Puglia is famous for its incredible seafood, especially clams and mussels. It’s also famous for its cheeses, bread, and olive oil. Puglia is truly a food paradise, especially Salento.
We use the Turi for this orecchiette con broccoli because it pairs so well with vegetables and fish, especially if adding anchovies.
Where is Orecchiette from Broccoli from?
The origin of the pasta shape orecchiette lies in Puglia and Basilicata. Many believe orecchiette was brought to the area during the dynasty of Angioini between the 12th and 13th centuries. However, there’s another theory that the origin of the orecchiette lies in the reign of Normanno-Sveva between the 12th and 13th centuries.
Bari, a city in Puglia, is very famous for its incredible orecchiette. Look online, or better yet visit Puglia, and you’ll see older women on the streets and in tiny shops making and selling their pasta. Here’s a video by Pasta Grannies showing how orecchiette is made by hand in Bari!
In Bari, they cook orecchiette with cime di rapa (broccoli rabe), cavolfiore (cauliflower), broccoli, or other vegetables. There’s also a dish made with orecchiette and a red ragù.
There are two types of orecchiette, large and small. They use the large for vegetables and the small for ragù. We prefer orecchiette with vegetables or seafood.
Broccoli (and other ‘vegetable sauces’)
Italians have perfected the ‘vegetable sauce’ and orecchiette with broccoli is the perfect example. There’s a misconception that Italians only eat pasta. While they do eat a lot of pasta they also eat a ton of vegetables. Vegetables are in so many pasta dishes. However, the pasta is so good many are tricked into thinking it’s ‘just a carb’.
Are you or your kids picky eaters or don’t like vegetables? Make this orecchiette with broccoli recipe and let us know the results! The beauty of this recipe is it can be made with other vegetables. However, that comes with a warning. Be intentional about the vegetables you use. Often in the U.S., we throw everything from the vegetable drawer in the pot. Unfortunately, this does not respect the vegetable as a food with its own flavor profile. If you have a head of cauliflower that is enough. Let that cauliflower have her moment.
No matter the vegetable it’s going to need a bit of help in order to truly *shine*. This is where a high-quality extra virgin olive oil steps in. A vegetable on its own is good, a vegetable with incredible olive oil is extraordinary. Great olive oil helps food develop flavor. It’s what makes a soffritto butter sweet, melt in the mouth and a pasta aglio e olio become a real dish even though it only has 2 ingredients. The oil matters.
How To Make Orecchiette with Broccoli
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Then salt the water and make sure it’s well-salted. You’re not going to add any more salt to the broccoli sauce, and want to make sure the water is seasoned. Chop the broccoli into chunks. Don’t make them too small or you’ll lose the florets in the water. Boil the broccoli for about 10 minutes, it should be slightly soft but not done yet. While waiting for the broccoli to cook, heat a medium pan on medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, and optional anchovy. Cook until the anchovy has melted and the garlic is golden. Remove from heat.
Add the orecchiette to the broccoli water and cook until a few minutes before ‘al dente’. Add a ladle of pasta water to the pan and turn onto high heat. Once its boiling use a slotted spoon to add the orecchiette and broccoli to the pan. If this is too messy reserve 1 cup pasta water then strain the orecchiette and broccoli and add to pan. Stir continuously and add a bit of water each time things look dry. Cook for the additional few minutes. Add freshly cracked pepper. Then cut the heat, add parmigiano, and serve!
Side note, if you’re adding anchovy don’t add the cheese.
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If you make this orecchiette with broccoli, please leave a comment and give this recipe a rating! We love to hear from you and do respond to comments. And if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and Facebook and use #EXAUoliveoil so we can repost!
Orecchiette with Broccoli
Orecchiette with Broccoli is an easy weeknight meal. Originally from Puglia, it's the best way to sneak in extra veggies.
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp coarse sea salt
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the Turi)
- 1 head broccoli (large)
- 350 grams orecchiette (0.75lb)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (optional)
- 1 large anchovy (optional)
Fill a medium large pot with water, and bring to a boil. Add salt. If water does not taste as salty as the sea add more.
Cut broccoli into 1 1/2" chunks (remove stems if desired).
Add broccoli to water. Cook for 10-12 minutes until soft.
Heat a medium large saute pan on medium low and add olive oil (optional anchovy) and garlic. Cook until anchovy has melted and garlic is golden (approx. 2 mins). Remove from heat.
Add orecchiette to broccoli water, stirring every 2 minutes. Cook orecchiette 2-3 minutes before ‘al dente’ (see package for cooking time).
Turn medium large pan with olive oil and garlic mixture onto medium heat and add a ladle of pasta water. With a slotted spoon add the orrechiette and broccoli. Turn heat up to high and stir.
Add pasta water as needed to achieve desired texture. We like ours a little 'soupy'. Add freshly cracked pepper.
Add (optional) parmigiano reggiano (if add anchovy don't add cheese). Remove from heat and stir until cheese is incorporated.
Serve immediately. Enjoy!