Cime di rapa (broccoli rabe) can be a polarising vegetable as it runs on the bitter side, but I find that if you counter it with a salty fat, aka cheese, and a bit of acid, then it is actually quite enjoyable. This dish is finished under the grill (broiler) to get some char on the cime di rapa and crisp up the cheese a bit. It’s kind of hard not to fight for that top layer of crunchy cime di rapa and melty cheese (the best part about testing this alone was that I got to eat the whole top layer).
Prep 5 minutes
Total 25 minutes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or grated
- ½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
- 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) water
- 500 g (1 lb) dried wholewheat or farro penne
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) chopped cime di rapa (broccoli rabe), ends trimmed and cut into 5 cm (2 in) pieces (about 4 cups) or 300 g (10½ oz) chard or cavolo nero (lacinato kale), leaves removed from stems, cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) ribbons, (about 3 cups)
- 45 g (1¾ oz/¼ cup) grated Pecorino Romano, plus more to serve
- zest of 1 lemon
Cut the cime di rapa and clean up while the pasta is cooking.
1. Heat the oil in an ovenproof 30 cm (12 in) frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot with a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch or more of chilli flakes, stirring constantly until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Pour the water into the frying pan, raising the heat to reach a vigorous boil, then add the pasta and more salt. The water shouldn’t taste like the sea as you’re not draining the liquid. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions, and stirring every few minutes to ensure nothing is sticking on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Keep tasting it as it gets closer to being done.
2. Turn on the grill to high. Place an oven rack 15 cm (6 in) from the heat source (if your grill is inside your oven).
3. Stir in the cime di rapa and then top with the grated Pecorino Romano. Here is where you’d add the little cheese nuggets, if using. Place under the grill until the cheese has melted and turned a light golden hue and the cime di rapa is starting to brown, about 2–3 minutes, depending on your grill.
4. Remove, top with lemon zest and more cheese, if desired.
Garlic lovers, slice the garlic thinly so that you get more in each bite.
I love cutting cubes of cheese and wiggling them into the pasta as it cooks so that they are like little surprise nuggets when I eat it. Just putting it out there.
After reheating any leftover pasta, squeeze in some lemon juice for brightness, add a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil and top with cheese