26 March 2006

Live & Learn

Since M's on a shoot in New Jersey this past week or so, I've had occasion to do a lot more cooking. She's been coming home late and getting out early, so I've made sure to cook healthy but comforting dinners for her when I could. Last weekend, I made borscht, sort of accidentally. I made roasted beets as a side dish for a ground beef & cabbage stew with potatoes, then decided to chop and throw in the beets at the last minute. It was very good and rich, though I'd have liked to maybe have some potato starch to thicken up the broth a little at the end.

Yesterday, I went to Mario's, the Italian butcher in my neighborhood, and got the ingredients for bucatini all'amatriciana, which is a favorite for M. Pancetta, a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes, some ground pecorino romano, and, actually, perciatelli, which is smaller in diameter than bucatini (since we'd had a little trouble last time eating the bucatini without spilling sauce all over us). I also got a couple of fresh-made sausages, some rusks and some prosciutto. As usual, it was ridiculously cheap, around $20 for the same stuff I would've paid at least $50 for at Citarella or Dean & Deluca.

I had to get some onions and some cheese for Italian Breakfast, and some broccoli rabe to have as a side dish, so I stopped by the regular supermarket. There, I decided to change things up, and do orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe instead. Like Amatriciana, it takes to having pecorino romano sprinkled over rather than parmigiano, so the fact that I'd forgotten to get parmigiano at Mario's wasn't a problem. What was a problem, however, was that I'd underestimated the importance of having the right pasta for the dish I was making. I couldn't find orecchiette, so I didn't get any more pasta at all, remembering that I'd randomly found good orecchiette pugliese at the bodega across the street (which rarely has anything good at all).

I couldn't find the orecchiette, so I just decided to go with the perciatelli, broken in half. Not a terrible mistake, but I did have it demonstrated to me when I cooked the dish just how important having the right pasta is. Had I to do it over again without orecchiette, I would've gone with penne rigate instead, as it has the ridges to pick up and hold the juice which comprises the sauce. The most important thing for this recipe is peeling the broccoli rabe well.

Orecchiette with Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Garlic

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a primo

1 head garlic
olive oil

1-2 bunches broccoli rabe (depending on how much you like it)
1 lb Italian pork sausage, removed from its casing (you can use sweet or hot)
pinch red pepper flakes (if using sweet sausage)
1 lb orecchiette

plenty of good extra virgin olive oil
lots of fresh ground black pepper
pecorino romano

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a large pot of lightly salted water on high heat.
  2. Cut the top half-inch off the head of garlic so you can see the tops of the cloves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some salt, wrap well in foil and roast for 40 minutes.
  3. While the garlic roasts, trim the broccoli rabe, peeling the stems from the bottom up to the flower. Cut the stalks into 1" pieces. Boil for 4-5 minutes, then drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Put another fresh pot of water on for the pasta.
  4. In a large skillet, saute the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Drain the sausage on paper towels. Wipe out the skillet and add a couple tablespoons olive oil.
  5. When the water boils, start cooking the pasta.
  6. When the garlic is done, unwrap and, holding in a dishtowel, squeeze the garlic into the skillet, followed by a pinch of red pepper flakes, the sausage, and the broccoli rabe. Add a little of the pasta cooking water.
  7. Toss the pasta with the sauce, a good amount of olive oil, pepper, and pecorino romano. Serve immediately

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