Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta

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This is a dish my nonno would love. Would have loved. I’m still getting used to past tense and still deciding if I want to use it. One of the reasons I had a blogging hiatus, was because my nonno (grandfather) recently passed away. He was 91. People say “he had a long life”, which he did. They offer that in a way to make light of a hard situation, because I believe people always try to look for the good. Yes, he had a long life– but to me, it wasn’t long enough. He was born in Italy and moved to the US when he was a little boy. He lived next door to my family my whole life. We were really close the last year of his life. I was fortunate to hear his stories and listen to things he wanted me to know.  There are so many things about him I could talk about. That he ate a salad with oil and vinegar EVERY day, the way he called robbers “crooks” and celebrities “movie stars”, how he had his own orchestra when he was young and when he played the drums at 91 he looked 20 again, how he was a writer of novels and poetry, how he travelled the world, and how much he loved The Walton’s, Giada De Laurentiis and olives. I chose to write about him today because he loved to eat. His wife loved to cook. I hope I get so fortunate one day.

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One thing he was passionate about was italian cuisine. The food he was brought up eating. He loved “broccoli di rabe” as he would say. He told me how to pick it out. You want to find one with a lot of florets and not one that’s all leaves. He could always find the best one. I’m sure he would have wanted hot italian sausage with this instead of pancetta but I wanted to modernize it a bit. I love the crispy thick sliced pancetta with the bitter greens. I love the “ear” pasta. I enjoyed this hot with a lot of grana on top. I wish I could have eaten it with him. I will always wish that. Instead, I’m going to watch Giada De Laurentiis at 3pm everyday (he noted that on his tv schedule) and search for a love of olives. I hope you do the same.

Ps. I have to report I finished Friday Night Lights (the whole series) and feel another empty hole in my heart. I miss Dillon, TX. I miss the Panther’s. I miss the Taylor’s. Most of all, I miss Tim Riggins.

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Orecchiette with Broccoli Di Rabe and Pancetta

Serves 3-4

  • 1/2 pound dried orecchiette
  • 1 head of broccoli rabe, tough ends cut off
  • 1 cup of pancetta, 1/4 inch thick and sliced in 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, for topping
  • salt to taste
  1. Bring large pot of water over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe. After about 6 minutes or when stems are fork tender, drain the broccoli. But, keep water in pot. Dry the rabe and squeeze all the water out. Give it a few rough chops.
  2. In the same pot, add salt and bring water back to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente.
  3. When pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a saute pan over medium heat until hot. Then add the pancetta and cook until crisp, about 4-6 minutes. Turn down to medium-low and add garlic, and cook for another minute. Then add the dried broccoli rabe and hot pepper and mix together.
  4. When the pasta is done, drain it but reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta to the saute pan with the broccoli rabe mixture, combine. Add, about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to loosen it up. If it needs more, add it in tablespoon intervals.
  5. Transfer the pasta mixture to a serving bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and grate as much cheese as you want. Enjoy.

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3 thoughts on “Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta

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