Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes, & Anchovy Breadcrumbs

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If I ask my husband what pasta dish he would like for dinner, I can just about guarantee that he’ll ask for orecchiette with greens. This is a typical southern Italian dish that we often enjoy, although I may vary the ingredients depending on what is seasonally available, or what I have on hand.

Orecchiette is an ear shaped pasta commonly found in Puglia, one of my favorite regions in Italy. The traditional dish from Puglia is called orecchiette alle cime di rapa, although other greens can be used as an alternative to rapini. This is a great pasta shape to use with many sauces as the little ear-shaped pasta cups the sauce beautifully.

This is my latest version of our family favorite pasta. I added fresh cherry tomatoes to the basic recipe, and then made some flavorful toasted breadcrumbs to top the pasta before serving. I love pasta that has some added texture, and I used garlic and anchovies to flavor my breadcrumbs to add extra flavor as well.

I used dried orecchiette in this recipe which can be found at most grocery or specialty stores. If you are lucky enough to find fresh orecchiette, or even want to tackle making your own, fresh orecchiette would be a great option. I am not a fan of canned anchovies, but I have found that the addition of anchovies to many dishes adds a depth of flavor or umani that really brings the flavor to life without adding a “fishy” taste.

If you too are not an anchovy fan, try anchovy paste in a tube which has the same flavor but is much more mellow. To make my breadcrumbs for dishes such as this one, I cube stale Italian bread and throw it into my food processor and pulse it just until it is ground. I prefer the crumbs to be larger than what you would find in the dried store bought crumbs.

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes, & Anchovy Breadcrumbs

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes, & Anchovy Breadcrumbs

Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes



  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Anchovy, or 1 Teaspoon Anchovy Paste
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Finally Minced
  • 1 1/2 Cups Fresh Breadcrumbs (See Notes Above)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Zest

Pasta Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 2 Anchovies, or 2 Teaspoons Anchovy Paste
  • 1 Pound Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1 Large Bunch Broccoli Rabe (About 1 Pound), Trimmed & Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
  • 1 Pound Orecchiette

To Serve:

  • Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese


  1. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the anchovy and garlic, and use a fork to mash together.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs, and cook stirring often, until the crumbs are crisp and golden brown.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon zest, and then set aside until needed.
  4. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
  5. Heat the oil for the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat, and then add the garlic, anchovies, tomatoes, pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Cook the pasta until it is about 3/4 cooked.
  8. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot, and continue to cook until the pasta is “al Dente”.
  9. Reserve a small cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and broccoli rabe, and return it to the pot.
  10. Add the tomato mixture, and mix over high heat until piping hot, adding a little pasta water to loosen.
  11. Serve in individual bowls with breadcrumbs on top, offering grated cheese at the table.

Did you make this recipe?

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