The Orecchietta is the queen of the traditional Apulian pasta shapes. Their name comes from their shape, which resembles a small ear. With the orecchiette, many different dishes are made. One of the most famous being orecchiette alle cime di rapa (turnip tops).
How are orecchiette made?
The pasta is usually made from a mixture of semolina or durum wheat flour of local varieties and water; this is worked until a smooth and homogeneous and rather soft mixture is obtained which is collected into a ball and kept covered with a cloth to not let it dry out. When making the pasta one piece of dough at a time is rolled into a ‘cord’ with a diameter of just over a centimeter. Then pieces of pasta are cut with a knife as to obtain a sort of gnocchetti. With the rounded tip of the blade of the knife they are crushed and dragged one at a time on the work surface making sure they remain attached to the blade. Finally with the help of the tip of the thumb of the other hand the piece of pasta is turned into it’s typical shape. After this they can be booked or dried to use later.
Where and when to eat orecchiette
Orecchiette are found it lots of restaurants all over Puglia. We prefer to eat them in the small villages where the pasta is usually home made. A simple version with tomato is almost always available. The season of cime di rapa is from november – april in the South of Italy.
Other versions of orecchiette are:
- Broccoli e salsiccia (Broccoli and sausage)
- Tonno e capperi con finocchietto (Tuna, capers and fennel)
- Sugo con verdure e basilico (Sauce with vegetables and basil)
- Pancetta e broccoli (Bacon and broccoli)
- Cozze e vongole (Mussels and clams)
- Rucola e pomodorini (Rocket and cherry tomatoes)
- Sugo di carne (Sauce with meat)
- Pesto con mandorle e pinoli (Pesto with almonds and pine nuts)
- Salsa di noci e gorgonzola (Walnut and gorgonzola sauce)
- Asparagi (Asparagus)
- Ceci (Asparagus)
- Piselli (Peas)
- Fagioli e cozze (Beans and mussels)
- Zucchine (Zucchini)
La cucina povera
Orecchiette alle cime di rapa is a very healthy dish, because this vegetable contains a lot of calcium and vitamin C, A, B2 and phosphorus. They also have a considerable amount of protein (2.9 g). This is why back in the day this vegetable was used a lot in Puglia in the cucina povera, where almost no meat was consumed. Are you pregnant? Cime di rape also contain a lot of folate!