Vito’s “Spaghetti con Rapini”
Here’s a recipe that my father, Vito, at the amazing age of 91, prepared for me while I was visiting him back in Canada recently!
It is a classic “cucina povera” dish that he grew up with in Puglia and one that is incredibly delicious in its simplicity!
If you aren’t able to source broccoli rabe (rapini), which seemed to be readily available in most supermarkets back home around Dad, then the closest thing that would work are broccolini. You won’t get that slightly bitter flavour that rapini has, but it will still work beautifully!
500g spaghetti (or orecchiette)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, sliced
150g jar of anchovies**, with their oil
500g of broccoli rabe (rapini) (or broccolini*)
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Freshly grated parmigiano or pecorino, to serve (optional)
Dried chilli flakes (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Turn down heat then salt the water by adding about 2 tbsp of salt (or to taste).
Trim off thick bottom ends of broccoli rabe and discard. *If using broccolini, thin out bottom stalks by slicing along their length in half or quarters depending on how thick they are. Cut broccolini into two.
Bring pasta water back to the boil then add pasta. Wait until it returns to the boil and then add prepared rapini or broccolini. Take note of how long your chosen packet of pasta takes to cook.
While waiting for the pasta water to come back to the boil, in another large pot or wok, gently fry the garlic until golden brown in the 2 tbsp of oil.
Add the chilli and jar of anchovies (including oil) and cook while stirring until anchovies have softened into a smooth paste. Keep warm while waiting for pasta & rapini to cook. **It may seem like a lot of anchovies but combined with the pasta and broccoli, it works…trust me (and Vito).
Continue to cook the pasta & rapini until the pasta is cooked to al dente (as per packet instructions) or to your preferred tenderness.
Drain pasta and rapini then add to the anchovy pan. Toss to coat the pasta and rapini evenly.
Serve hot, drizzled with extra virgin olive and any additional dried chilli flakes and grated cheese (optional).