This recipe is a classic and very traditional Southern Italian dish. Orechiette pasta (translated as ‘little ears’ in English, because of their shape) originate in Puglia. Their shape allows the sauce to cling beautifully to the pasta. It really is simple, Italian food at its finest.
I have lovely memories of beautiful, little orechiette sitting on the window sill at my cousin’s house in Italy. We would all pitch in to make them kneading, rolling, cutting and shaping, then sit outside in the summer sunshine and let them dry for a few hours before cooking them with fresh ingredients from the garden.
This is my ideal way of cooking. Creating a delicious and nourishing meal together with friends and family. The process of making a meal to share is just as enjoyable as eating the meal itself. It allows you time to appreciate food and take care in how you prepare and present it.
Today I recruited my brother, Alex, in the orechiette making process. I was actually quite impressed with his skills! I even have the photos to prove it.
Now, I can already hear some of you yelling ‘I HATE ANCHOVIES!’ My husband and brother are definitely on the ‘I hate anchovies’ bandwagon. I will confess, I LOVE those salty, little fishies! When my mum used to cook with anchovies, she would have to slap my hand away from the jar to stop me from eating them. THAT’S how much I love them.
Please don’t be put off by the anchovies in this recipe. It does not make the dish ‘fishy’ at all, but rather lends a lovely saltiness. As I said, Kristian and Alex have an aversion to anchovies, but they really love this pasta dish. Of course, you could omit them from the recipe if you absolutely despise them, but I would highly recommend leaving them in. Use a few fillets less if you’re really nervous.
I can assure you that making pasta isn’t difficult. I can also assure you that there is nothing more scrumptious than a plate of fresh homemade orrechiette. Of course, if you are short on time you can substitute for a dry variety of orrechiette. When teamed with simple ingredients, such as broccoli and anchovies, it makes for a quick but very impressive dish.
For the Orechiette:
400g plain flour
A good pinch of salt
200ml tepid water
1 head of broccoli
A good lug of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5-6 anchovy fillets
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Extra dried chilli flakes
To make the orechiette, combine the flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and slowly add the water, using a wooden spoon to bring it all together.
Turn it out onto a bench and knead it for about 5-7 minutes. The dough may seem a little dry but stick with it and it will all come together. Slightly dampen your hands with water if you think the dough needs a little more moisture.
Once you have a smooth dough, cover it with cling film and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Working with small pieces of the dough at a time, roll the dough out into long snake like shapes, about 1cm in diameter. Cut into small 1cm pieces.
Using the back of a butter knife, press down on each little piece of dough and pull the knife towards you on the table. The dough should roll around your knife as you pull it. Remove it from the knife and open it up gently using your thumb. You should be left with a piece of pasta that resembles a little ear or hat. Place it gently onto a floured tray. Continue with the rest of the dough.
Allow the orechiette to dry slightly at room temperature for at least an hour before cooking. This makes them easier to handle.
For the broccoli and anchovies, place a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to the boil. Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to the water.
Wash the broccoli and then cut it into small florets. Chop the stalk of the broccoli into small pieces.
Place the broccoli in the pot of salted, boiling water. Cook for around 5-7 minutes, until the stalks are tender.
While the broccoli is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic, chilli and anchovies and cook on a low heat. Break the anchovies up with a wooden spoon until they are dissolved.
When the broccoli is ready, remove it from the water using a slotted spoon, reserving the boiling water for the pasta. Add the broccoli directly to the frying pan with the garlic, chilli and anchovies. Also add a couple of tablespoons of the boiling water. Give it a good stir and cook on a low heat.
Add the orechiette to the pot of boiling water. They are cooked when they float to the top of the water, about 2-3 minutes
When the orechiette are cooked, drain them and then add them to the frying pan with the broccoli. Give it all a good stir, adding salt and pepper to taste and then remove from the heat.
Serve immediately topped with freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and some extra dried chilli flakes.