The Puglia region boasts a vast collection of recipes that Italian home cooks make on high rotation. One of the region’s signature dishes is orecchiette, a type of semolina pasta that is hand-shaped into tiny rounds.

Traditionally, orecchiette (literally translated as ‘little ears’) are paired with a sauce made of garlic, anchovies and cime di rapa – a bitter green member of the brassica family with a distinctive earthy flavour. I have a real soft spot for wintery bitter greens, so full of flavour and heavenly when pan-fried with a little garlic, chilli and olive oil. If broccoli rabe is unavailable (its winter season is short and it can be elusive to source), you can replace it with regular broccoli or even mustard greens, which are very similar in flavour.


300g broccoli rabe (cime di rapa), trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4–5 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced, or teaspoon chilli flakes
400g dried orecchiette (if you are not making your own)


300g durum wheat flour (semolina flour), plain flour or specialty pasta flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon salt flakes
220–250ml lukewarm water
olive oil, to grease your hands


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
100g stale sourdough, processed to crumbs in the food processor


If you are making your own orecchiette, put the flour and salt in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and slowly pour in the water, mixing as you go to incorporate the flour. Don’t add all the water at once, as you may not need it all; by the same token, you may need to add a little extra water if the dough is too stiff or dry. (Durum wheat flour may require a little more liquid than plain flour or specialty pasta flour.)

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, oil your hands and knead for 3-4 minutes or until it comes together in a smooth ball. Add a little extra flour if it feels sticky. (Alternatively, you can make the dough in a food processor. Add the water gradually and pulse the mixture instead of processing it on full speed.) Wrap it in beeswax wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. You can make the dough a day ahead, if it’s more convenient.

Take the dough out of the fridge, dust a board with flour and cut the dough into 4-5 pieces. Roll each piece into a 2cm thick log, then cut into 1-2 cm pieces and generously dust with flour.

Using a butter knife, press down on a piece of dough and drag it towards you. Flip it inside out and, placing it over your thumb, shape it into a little ear. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure you keep the board and the dough well dusted in flour.
Dust the orecchiette with flour and set aside.

To make the pangrattato, heat the olive oil in a small frying over medium heat, add the breadcrumbs and toast for 3-4
minutes or until golden. Set aside. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, drop in the orecchiette and the broccoli rabe, stir and cook for 8-9 minutes or until the pasta is perfectly al dente. While the orecchiette and broccoli rabe are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium–low heat, add the anchovies and break them up into the oil with a wooden spoon, then add the garlic and chilli or chilli flakes and 2-3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water. Use a slotted spoon to lift the orecchiette and broccoli rabe out of the cooking water and straight into the pan, dragging a little of the cooking water with them. Stir to coat the orecchiette and broccoli rabe with the sauce. Saute for 1 minute, then spoon into bowls, top with the pangrattato and eat while hot.


Silvia Colloca’s The Italian Home Cook: the 100 recipes you need to know is out now through Pan Macmillan Australia, and is available at good book stores like Hill of Content.