Orecchiette with Broccoli (see photo) is likely the most famous Puglian dish, and it’s found in many Italian restaurants around the world. Its unique flavor comes from the anchovy, a common ingredient in southern Italian cooking. In Puglia, the dish is not very spicy, but I add more red pepper flakes as I like my food hotter. The dish can be prepared with fresh broccoli as well, but the broccoli will have to be boiled longer. As is typical in Italian cooking, the vegetables are tender rather than crunchy, which makes the broccoli in this dish more of a sauce (similar to pesto) than a vegetable.
1. In a large pan over low heat, heat the olive oil and garlic. As soon as the garlic starts to change color, add the anchovies and break them up with a wooden spoon. Cook for another 2 minutes, until the anchovies melt into the oil. Add the red pepper flakes.
2. Meanwhile, boil the frozen broccoli for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. (If using dried orecchiette) In a large pot, bring to a boil 4 quarts (3.8 L) of water. Salt the water generously and add the orecchiette. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done (when it is still firm on the inside), add the broccoli to the pot and continue cooking. The pasta should be al dente. Drain the pasta and broccoli and add it to the garlic and anchovy sauce. Toss over low heat.
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