Homemade Italian Broccoli Rabe Cavatelli Pasta topped with some Pecorino Romano cheese. Could this possibly be the ultimate Italian comfort food?
The same question comes to mind every time I make and eat this dish… how could something so simple taste so amazing? Is it because of the garlic scented olive oil? Is it the subtle pungency of the broccoli rabe? Or perhaps the unique texture of the homemade cavatelli?
Think about it for a minute. The recipe for homemade cavatelli is the result of combining water and flour. This pasta is then combined with broccoli rabe (also referred to as rapini) which has been sautéed with lots of garlic and pepper flakes. A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese and voilà… the ultimate Italian comfort food in a bowl. Simple, right?
This dish is the combination of two recipes that I have previously shared with all of you.
The first is this Homemade Cavatelli Pasta Dough Recipe (this post includes a how-to video). My freezer is usually stocked with homemade cavatelli. So, when I want to make a quick week night pasta supper with cavatelli, it’s easy.
The second is this recipe for Italian-Style Garlicky Broccoli Rabe. This is a great recipe to have as a side; as a topping for pizza; snuggled in a sandwich or with pasta, but not just any pasta, homemade cavatelli pasta.
Let me show you how easy this recipe for Homemade Italian Broccoli Rabe Cavatelli Pasta comes together when you start with frozen cavatelli.
The first thing you need to do is trim the stems from the broccoli rabe, taking off anywhere from 1-2 inches. The goal being to remove as much of the tough stalk as possible. Then, just like any other vegetable, it needs to be washed. Once that’s done, you need to cook it in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli rabe and drain the excess water.
I like to use scissors to roughly cut up the broccoli rabe after it has been cooked. If you prefer, a cutting board and a knife is just as effective. The goal is to chop up these stalks.
I will now refill my pot with water and bring it to a boil. There are some recipes that will instruct you to boil the cavatelli together with the broccoli rabe. Although definitely a faster method, I prefer to boil these two food components apart.
So, let’s bring the water to boil so that the cavatelli can be cooked. While we wait, prepare the garlic. I will use about 2-3 cloves of garlic per bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe). Since we are using 2 bunches of broccoli rabe, smash about 6 cloves of garlic. In my book, you can never have enough garlic 😉
In a very large saucepan, heat about 4 – 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and sauté for a minute or two. Be mindful not to burn the garlic.
At this point, the water should be boiling vigorously. It’s time to add the cavatelli to the water. Although the cavatelli are usually done when they float to the top, taste one to be sure. We are looking for an al dente texture, which simply means it is cooked, but still firm to the bite.
Meanwhile, you should begin to smell that sweet garlic scent. Add the chili flakes (to taste) and the broccoli rabe to the sauce pan. Increase the heat to medium high and add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the broccoli rabe become tender. Feel free to add a little more pasta water if the broccoli rabe look a little dry.
It is now time to combine these two wonderful ingredients together. Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining the cavatelli. Toss the drained pasta with the broccoli rabe in the saucepan. Once again, if the dish looks a little dry, feel free to add some reserved pasta water.
Pour pasta into serving bowl and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese and your done!
Origins of the recipe for Homemade Italian Broccoli Rabe Cavatelli Pasta:
This Homemade Italian Broccoli Rabe Cavatelli Pasta is a simple and delicious recipe prepared with just a few basic ingredients. This is the essence of so many of the dishes that I grew up with. I have previously mentioned that my paternal family was originally from Ripabottoni, in the province of Campobasso, in the Italian region of Molise.
Traditionally, this area was known for sheep and agricultural farming (done on small plots of land). The ingredients used in so many regional Italian recipes is the direct result of the surrounding environment and economics of the area.
My dad’s family were farmers in this area for centuries and the influence can easily be seen in the simplicity of so many of the dishes. My dad would love to tell us stories of his childhood. Somehow, they would often revolve around him losing sheep and big bowls of cavatelli.
My mom would always make cavatelli on Father’s Day as this was one of my dad’s favorite dishes. Sometimes it was this recipe for Cavatelli with Tomato Ricotta Sauce and other times it would be this simple recipe for cavatelli e rapini.
This week-end, we will be celebrating Father’s day and I will be making this recipe for Homemade Italian Broccoli Rabe Cavatelli Pasta. We will continue to talk about all of the wonderful stories my dad so lovingly and proudly shared with all of us.
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads!
This post is dedicated to the loving memory of my dad ♥
- 2 bunches broccoli rabe
- 2 teaspoons salt (separated)
- 4- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- red chili flakes (optional and to taste)
- ½ recipe for Homemade Cavatelli Pasta Dough Recipe
- 1 big pinch of salt
- 1 cup pasta water (reserved)
- Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- garnish with fresh basil leaves (optional)
- Trim the stems of the broccoli rabe, anywhere from 1-2 inches.
- Wash broccoli rabe properly.
- Cook broccoli rabe in a large pot of salted boiling water until just tender for approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Drain and place in a bowl.
- Use scissors to roughly cut up the broccoli rabe. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water of boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, drizzle olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Sauté smashed garlic for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the chili flakes (to taste) and the broccoli rabe to the sauce pan and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add the cavatelli to the salted boiling water (cavatelli are usually done when they float to the top, taste one to be sure).
- Meanwhile, increase the heat (of the broccoli rabe) to medium high and add about ¼ cup of the pasta water. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the broccoli rabe becomes tender. Feel free to add a little more pasta water if the broccoli rabe look a little dry.
- Drain the cavatelli (reserve some pasta water).
- Toss together with the broccoli rabe (Add some reserved pasta water if dish looks a bit dry).
- Place on serving dish and drizzle with olive oil.
- Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
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