November 22, 2016 — Family Food
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300g-400g orecchiette pasta
500g cime di rapa – broccoli, spring greens, collard greens, savoy cabbage, spinach or chard
1 red pepper
2 red chillies deseeded
2 large shallots
2 large cloves of garlic
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
80ml white wine or stock
Butter and olive oil
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon
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Cime di Rapa
I recently went to Spa Terminus near Bermondsey to research an article on seasonal produce for Time Out. Spa Terminus is home to about 25 thriving food producers and businesses located under the railway arches for train lines into London Bridge. One of the producers on my list was Natoora – they source fruit and veg of the highest quality and supply many of London’s top restaurants, including Theo Randall and and River Cafe. It was toward the end of November and Natoora had plenty of truly seasonal offerings in stock. I was after the Delica super-sweet pumpkins, the beautifully tender – but very spiky – fresh artichokes and bundles of cime di rapa all from their select Italian farmers. I’m happy to pursue obscure ingredients, but in 20 years of cooking, this is the first bunch of cime di rapa I’ve ever seen. So when we hear chefs nonchalantly suggesting on the telly that you can, of course, make this with ‘cime di rapa’ as if anybody could walk round to their local greengrocer and pick up a bunch – well, now know the truth: I was only able to make this due to the folk at Natoora. It’s getting easier to track down Natoora supplies, they have shops in Chiswick, Sloan Square and Selfridges (and Spa Terminus on Saturdays), but are also available through Ocado and Wholefood Market. Check their website here.
The paring of cime di rapa and orecchiette is classically Italian. Cime di rapa is otherwise known as turnip tops, but they taste nothing of turnips. ‘Chard-like’ comes to mind, with their slightly bitter and earthy taste. Bitter and earthy suits me fine, but if you like your greens sweet and mellow use broccoli, greens, cabbage or spinach instead. All will be good.
Prepare and blanch the cime di rapa: Separate the delicate leaves from the stalks. Use all the stalk and flowering bud – just leaving the thickest and the toughest part of the base for the recycling bin. Roughly chop the leaves and the stalks. Blanch the stalks in boiling water for 3 minutes then add the leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes. Retain a cup of cooking liquid. Drain and plunge quickly in cold water to set the colour and stop the cooking.
Make the sauce: Chop the shallot, chilli and garlic into a fine dice and chop the pepper into a slightly larger dice. Add a little olive oil to a pan and fry the shallot, chilli and pepper on medium high heat for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to fry for a further 3 minutes, add the anchovies and stir for half a minute, then add the wine or stock and about 125ml of the cime di rapa cooking liquid. Stir to dissolve the anchovies and cook for 3 further minutes. Place the sauce into a bowl and set aside.
Cook the orecchiette: Follow the instruction on the pack but ensure they are al dente. Drain reserving some of the liquid.
Braise the cime di rapa: Heat the pan and add a little olive oil and a knob of butter, then add the greens and fry for about 4-5 minutes until warmed through and tender. Add the sauce and stir to heat.
Assemble the dish: Add the pasta to the sauce and toss, season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Dress with more olive oil and serve with crusty bread.
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