Recipe: Lasagnette con Crema di Rapini
What else can I do with my all-time favorite green vegetable? I’m talking about broccoli rabe, a source of bittersweet culinary memories for almost every Italian-American I know. We ate tons of it when I was a kid. There were a few years, when I first left my family home, when I couldn’t stand the smell of the stuff. But now, again as when I was a child, I can’t get enough of it. If I want something delicious I can cook when my brain is on vacation, I make orecchietti with broccoli rabe and sausage, or orecchietti with broccoli rabe and anchovies. Two beautiful dishes, little cognitive function needed. Lately, when my head has been clearer, I’ve wondered how else I could work this fabulous vegetable into a really good pasta. Well, how about a slightly lumpy, beautifully bitter purée? I tried it, and I loved the result.
In Italian food talk, crema doesn’t usually indicate the inclusion of cream. It refers to a purée, an ingredient made smooth. There’s no cream in this preparation, just well-cooked broccoli rabe and a few appropriate seasonings, given a quick run through the food processor.
Lasagnette con Crema di Rapini
(Serves 4 as a first course)
1 very large bunch Broccoli rabe, well trimmed of tough stems
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 oil-packed anchovies, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
About ½ cup light chicken broth (or a good vegetable broth)
¾ pound lasagnette
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup or so of grated Grana Padano cheese
The grated zest of one large lemon
A large handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
Set up a big pot of water, and bring it to a boil. Add salt. Add the broccoli rabe, and boil until it’s tender, about 5 minutes. Plunge the broccoli rabe into a water bath to cool, and then drain it well.
In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and anchovy in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the broccoli rabe, season it with a little salt and black pepper, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth, and simmer a minute longer. Add the broccoli rabe with all the skillet liquid to a food processor, and pulse until you have a slightly chunky purée (you want some texture, not a completely smooth paste).
Bring the water back to a boil, and add the lasagnette.
Place the grated Grana Padano, the butter, and the lemon zest in a large serving bowl.
When al dente, drain the lasagnette, saving a little of the cooking water.
Add the lasagnette to the bowl. Toss quickly. Add the broccoli rabe crema and the pine nuts, and toss again, adding a little of the cooking water to loosen it up, if needed. Taste for seasoning.