Stretched between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Puglia’s sun-soaked landscape in southern Italy is celebrated for its signature dish, orecchiette with broccoli rabe. The pasta’s “little ears,” as “orecchiette” translates, are the perfect shape to scoop up the chunkier sauce. Pugliese food is simple and delicious peasant cuisine, or cucina povera. Meat was expensive and difficult to find, so regional specialities often included fish and local vegetables.
Cime di rape, or turnip tops, are the greens sold in markets as broccoli di rape or broccoli rabe. This magniﬁcent vegetable is both delicious, with a bitter bite that is extraordinarily pleasing, and nutritious, with all the remarkable properties of the cabbage family, loaded with antioxidants and other healthy things.
This is quite possibly the most iconic recipe from the region of Puglia. The remarkable thing about it is how the broccoli rabe almost melts together with the pasta. This comes from the old Pugliese technique of boiling the pasta and vegetables together and then sautéing them in garlic, oil, and anchovies. If you’re not a big anchovy person, don’t worry; once they’re melted into the oil, the flavor is so subtle that you’ll barely notice. If you’re making this dish for people who don’t love anchovies, don’t even tell them they’re in there! They’ll never know!