Orecchiette with Broccolini

There’s been numerous indications, due to the COVID-19 spread and the shutdown of meat processing plants, we’ll likely see meat and poultry shortages in the near future. With foresight, we are starting to compile a reservoir of meatless dishes that could come in handy. For those of you who follow a plant-based diet, you are already ahead of the curve.

Taken from the MilkStreet.com website, it is noted orecchiette with broccoli rabe (orecchiette con cime di rapa) is a signature pasta dish from the Puglia region of southern Italy. The bitterness of rabe is challenging for some palates, so using sweeter, milder broccolini addresses that. However, if you like the assertiveness of rabe, it can easily be used in place of the broccolini, though rabe will cook a little more quickly.

The pasta gets boiled in a minimal amount of water, then the starchy liquid that remains becomes the base for the sauce that marries the orecchiette and broccolini. A finishing sprinkle of toasted seasoned breadcrumbs adds a crisp texture. But don’t use fine dried breadcrumbs in place of panko. Their sandy, powdery texture doesn’t offer the light, delicate crispness of panko.

I decided to adjust the ratio of pasta versus the other ingredients by only using 2/3 the amount of orecchiette, 8 ounces instead of 12. Of course this decision necessitated that the amount of water be reduced also, from 5 cups to 3 cups + 2 ounces. (The original recipe amounts are listed below.) As an additional topper, we sprinkled on some grated Pecorino Romano cheese along with those fabulous bread crumbs. In the end, we loved this dish. There was so much flavor with so few ingredients!

Orecchiette with Broccolini

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 Medium garlic cloves, 4 minced, 4 thinly sliced
  • 8 Oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • ¾ Cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1½ Lbs. broccolini, trimmed and cut crosswise into ¼-inch pieces
  • ½-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 12 Oz. orecchiette pasta
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • Grated cheese for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the minced garlic and half the anchovies, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
  2. Add the panko and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside; wipe out the pot.
  3. In the same pot over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil until shimmering. Add the broccolini, pepper flakes, sliced garlic, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccolini is crisp-tender and the garlic is golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add ½ cup water and continue to cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated and the broccolini is fully tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
  5. In the same pot over medium-high, boil 5 cups water. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the pasta, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
  6. Stir in the broccolini mixture, the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the remaining anchovies. Continue to cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until the liquid has thickened enough to cling lightly to the pasta and broccolini, about 1 minute.
  7. Remove from the heat, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated parmesan if desired.


Adapted from a recipe by Milk Street

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