To my mind, there are a couple of ways you can go with pasta. I love thin spaghettis -- capellinis and angel hairs. Then there are the tubes -- penne, ziti and rigatoni. For the record, I hate rigatoni. Always have. I cannot eat them, even to this day. Then there are the other toothsome varieties and of those, I am partial to orchiette and troffie. For this recipe, I like to use orchiette, little thumb-print type pastas that we called 'flying saucers' when I was a kid.
I pair my flying saucers with dark greens and chick peas. This may, in fact, be my favorite application for broccoli rabe. I admit that I am partial to dark greens -- I could eat kale or swiss chard or broccoli rabe every day of the week, but don't let the fact that broccoli rabe possesses many health benefits fool you. I eat this because it is delicious and, even if you don't generally like dark greens, this is a treatment that even you less adventurous food friends will enjoy.
You will need:
1 large bundle of broccoli rabe
1 can of chick peas (drained and rinsed)
4 cloves of garlic -- very finely diced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound of orchiette pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you clean the broccoli rabe by cutting away the thick woody stems; then coarsely chop. When the water comes to a boil, salt it and add the broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe, or rapini, can be very bitter. I find that boiling it for just a minute or two before sauteeing mellows out the bitterness. After you've boiled the broccoli rabe, drain it and set it aside.
Put on a pot of water for your orchiette.
Finely dice the garlic and also dice the pancetta into small cubes. Heat a sautee pan, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and toss in the pancetta and garlic. Reduce the heat, because you want the garlic and pancetta to cook pretty well, but you don't want to scorch them. After about 5 to 7 minutes, add the rinsed chick peas and the broccoli rabe. At this point, you just need to sautee this for a few more minutes.
By now, your pasta water should be at a rolling boil. Add a healthy pinch of kosher salt and the orchiette. When the pasta is about halfway done, add a pinch of crushed red pepper to the broccoli rabe and chick pea sautee pan, along with about a ladle full of the pasta water. As with all pasta preparations, remove the orchiette about one minute before they are al dente and cook them for a minute or two in the sautee pan with the broccoli rabe mixture.
Serve with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese.