All too often, we look askance at yet another pasta recipe. Typically, because your average online pasta recipe is an attractive, visually appealing, tapestry of color but ultimately, a mildly disappointing, somewhat mediocre and insipid plate. Well, this is a dish that may change your mind when it comes to the perception of pasta recipes.
The composition of this dish is very thoughtful, balancing a panoply of ingredients that at first glance appears odd and almost reckless. The reality is that the result is a complex and rather sophisticated medley of flavors that appeals to all of the tastes with the bitterness of broccoli rabe, the sweet spiciness of paprika, the fiery sour, aromatic notes of harissa, and a finishing touch of salty parmesan.
Once again, I am impressed that truly inspired cooking pushes the conventional boundaries of regional cuisines. In this case the traditional Italian aglio e olio pasta is globalized and transformed with the addition of paprika, harissa and mint, crossing from Italy to the far side of the Mediterranean into the North African Arab states, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. When broccoli rabe is roasted in a very hot oven it caramelizes the vegetable so beautifully. Harissa contains chili peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed, red chili powder, and caraway. This combined with the pan fried garlic, jalapeño and paprika makes for a flavorful and spicy sauce. If you enjoy aromatic, spicy and earthy pasta dishes, this one is sure to delight your senses!
Bottomline, trust me, it works and it’s delicious. I guarantee this dish will become a favorite in you house as it has in ours!
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 1/4 pounds broccoli rabe, ends trimmed (OR boccolini)
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeño chile, seeded and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 pound gigli, cavatelli or other similarly shaped pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving (OR 1/4 cup nutritional yeast)
1/2 cup packed mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the broccoli rabe with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the broccoli rabe on 2 baking sheets and roast for 15 minutes, until crisp-tender, then chop.
In a deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, chile and harissa and cook over moderate heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and paprika and cook until tender, 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta, cooking water and 1/4 cup of Parmigiano, or the nutritional yeast (if using), to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the pasta is coated in a thick sauce, 2 minutes. Stir in the herbs and serve with more cheese.
Recipe by Michael Natkin in Food and Wine Magazine