Homemade Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Chili
Today’s MoFo challenge was to make a meal with just five ingredients, or less. They were nice and tossed in oil, salt and pepper for free, but we assumed that water would also be a freebie. So, we’ve used semolina flour, red pepper flakes, garlic, broccoli rabe and fresh oregano.
We jump to pasta when we want a light but satisfying meal, but we thought we’d go one step further and make the noodles from scratch. Fresh pasta seems intimidating but, for simple noodles like orecchiette, it is actually really straightforward. In fact, the noodles only took about ten to fifteen minutes of total time make. That includes the shaping of more than a hundred of the little guys.
This recipe uses semolina flour, which is the basis for most commercial dried pasta. It is high in protein and develops a strong gluten structure without a long kneading, making it really handy when you want fresh pasta, but don’t have a ton of time.
The process is really simple. The semolina is mixed with enough water to turn it into a soft dough. It is kneaded just for a moment, then allowed to rest. That short resting period makes it easier to form. All together, the dough is ready to rest in less than five minutes. Rest it for at least 30 minutes, or up to a couple days.
Shaping is done in two ways traditionally. It can be rolled out thinly, cut into small circles, then pressed into the ‘little ears’ shape, or it is rolled into a long rope of dough then sliced thinly before shaping. Either works. I went ahead and rolled it to practice my rolling technique. It’s good to know how to roll pasta thin in case you don’t have access to a pasta machine.
The sauce couldn’t be simpler. Garlic and chili flakes as cooking in olive oil. Blanched broccoli rabe is added while the pasta cooks. It all comes together in the pan with a little pasta cooking water to make it creamy. Total cooking time, including the pasta, 6-7 minutes.
Have you tried making your own pasta before? We love to hear about it. Leave us a message in the comments.
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- 1 cup semolina flour (about 175g)
- 3 fl/oz /90g water
- 6oz broccoli rabe, flowerets cut away, thick stems sliced. Keep the stems and flowerets separated
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (this creates a noticeable, but still mild heat. 1 teaspoon will be spicy, but is also more traditional)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano (optional)
- 2 ½ quarts/liters water
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- Combine the semolina and water in a bowl. Mix well with your hands. It will turn into a dough pretty quickly. Turn it out onto a counter and knead it lightly for just a couple of minutes. The dough will get a little drier as you knead it. If you find that it is really wet, or it is sticking to the counter, add a little more flour.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes. It could even be refrigerated for a couple of days. Just bring it out and let it warm to room temperature before proceeding
- There are generally two ways to cut the dough: rolling it out thinly, or forming it into a rope and slicing off pieces. Here’s the technique for each.
- If rolling out: Divide the dough into two pieces. Lightly flour you countertop and the dough pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about ⅛-inch thick. Move it and flip it after every couple of passes with the rolling pin to ensure it is not sticking. Once it’s thin, repeat with the other piece. Cut out the orecchiette by using a small cutter. I used the back side of a piping bag tip. Aim for around ¾-inch in size. The leftover dough can be combined and rolled out again, but it is never as good. Try to cut the rounds as close together as possible to minimize waste. You should have at least 100 rounds.
- If forming a rope: Divide the dough in to two pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, rock the dough back and forth with the palm of your hands. Gradually lengthen it as you go until you have a rope about ¾-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut off ⅛-inch thick slices of the dough. Repeat with the other piece of dough. You should have at least 100 rounds.
- Shaping: There are several ways to go about this, so try them all to see what works best for you.
- 1 Place a round in the palm of one hand. Using the thumb of your other hand, firmly press and roll the round, going from heal to fingers. It will flick off on to the counter. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat.
- 2 Press a round over the end of your thumb, creating an indent. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat.
- 3 Use a similar press-and-roll motion as in #1, this time forming it directly on the countertop.
- This comes together in a flash. You’ll be cooking the broccoli rabe and the pasta while you make the sauce.
- Heat the water in a 4 quart pot until boiling. Add the salt and give it a couple seconds to dissolve.
- Add the broccoli rabe stems to the water. Simmer for about 2 minutes, then add the flowerets. Cook for another 2 minutes until almost tender. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat until hot. Start making the sauce when the flowerets are added to the boiling water. Add the olive oil to the sauté pan and allow it to heat for a few seconds, then add the chopped garlic and chili flakes. You don’t want the garlic to brown, so lower the heat if you need to.
- Once the broccoli rabe is removed from the pot, add it to the pan, tossing to coat in the olive oil.
- Add the orecchiette to the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the rawness is gone and a pleasant chewiness remains. They should be almost fully cooked at this point.
- Drain the noodles, reserving the pasta water. Add the noodles to the pan with the broccoli rabe along with about ¼-cup pasta cooking water and the optional oregano. Toss and simmer until the sauce has thickened around the noodles and they are tender, without being soggy. The goal of al dente is to maximize the amount of texture the noodle has while ensuring that it doesn’t stick to the teeth.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.