Orecchiette con Broccoli Recipe (Orecchiette with Broccoli)
Another dish that feels way more indulgent than it is: Orecchiette con Broccoli (Orecchiette with Broccoli). This dish hails from the beautiful southern region of Italy called Puglia. Puglia oocupies the heel of the boot and is separated from Calabria by the region of Basilicata. Puglia is well known for its incredible seafood (especially clams and mussels), cheeses, bread, and olive oil. It’s truly a food paradise, especially Salento.
We are using the TURI olive oil for this orecchiette con broccoli because it pairs so well with vegetables and fish (especially if you add anchovies).
Where is Orecchiette from?
The origins of orecchiette lay in Puglia and Basilicata. It’s believed that 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 lay in the reign of Normanno-Sveva between the 12th and 13th centuries.
Bari, a city in Puglia is very famous for making incredible orecchiette. You may have seen older women on the streets and in tiny shops making the pasta and selling them. Here’s a video by Pasta Grannies showing how orecchiette is made by hand in Bari!
In Bari, the orecchiette are usually cooked 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. The large are used for vegetables while the small are used for ragù. We prefer orecchiette with vegetables or seafood.
Broccoli (and other ‘vegetable sauces’)
Italians have perfected the ‘vegetable sauce’ and orecchiette con broccoli is the perfect example of that. There’s a misconception that Italians only eat pasta. While they do eat a lot of pasta they also eat a ton of vegetables. There are vegetables in so many pasta dishes, but it’s so good many have been tricked into thinking it’s ‘just a carb’.
If your kids are picky eaters, don’t like vegetables, or over eating veggies as a side dish, try making orecchiette con broccoli. The beauty of this recipe is that it can also be made with other vegetables, but 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. But this isn’t respecting 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.
- 2 tbsp coarse sea salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 tbsp TURI extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large head broccoli
- 350 grams (0.75lb) orecchiette
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (optional)
- 1 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 10-15 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).
- Finely grate parmigiano reggiano.
- 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!