Apulian Echoes: The Rustic Charm of Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa

With every bite of Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa, travel through the olive grove kissed landscapes of Apulia. This rustic dish, a treasure of Southern Italy, humbly showcases the harmonious marriage of the tender, shell-shaped orecchiette pasta with the slightly bitter, earthy notes of turnip tops (cime di rapa). 

The bite of anchovies and a whisper of chili awaken the senses, while a garlicky breeze carries through the soulful simplicity of this dish. The olive oil ties these humble ingredients together in a delightful dance that resonates with the heartbeats of Apulia.

Photo of a plate of Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa. The dish features well-cooked orecchiette pasta mixed with sautéed broccoli rabe, which has a slightly bitter taste. The pasta and broccoli rabe are coated lightly with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes, giving it a flavorful yet not overpowering taste. Grated Pecorino cheese is sprinkled on top as a garnish, and the plate is accompanied by a slice of crusty Italian bread.

Preparation and Cooking Time

  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Number of Servings and Ideal Serving Size

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Ideal Serving Size: A comforting bowl of about 250g to truly embrace the Apulian heritage.

Essential Nutritional Information (Per Serving)

  • Calories: 420 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 60g
  • Protein: 12g
  • Fat: 14g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Sugars: 4g


  • Orecchiette Pasta: 400g
  • Cime di Rapa (Turnip Tops), chopped: 400g
  • Olive Oil: 60ml
  • Anchovy Fillets: 8g
  • Garlic Cloves, minced: 10g
  • Red Chili Flakes: to taste
  • Salt: to taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper: to taste

Photo presenting the ingredients for Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa. Displayed are raw orecchiette pasta, fresh broccoli rabe, cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, and a block of Pecorino cheese. Olive oil is also included, showcased in a glass bottle. The ingredients are arranged neatly on a wooden surface, ready to be transformed into a delightful Italian pasta dish.

Detailed Method of Preparation

  1. Set a large pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette pasta and cook as per the package instructions until al dente. About three minutes before the pasta is done, add the cime di rapa to the pot. Drain the pasta and greens, reserving a bit of the pasta water, and set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovy fillets, and stir, allowing them to dissolve into the oil.
  3. Stir in the minced garlic and red chili flakes, sautéing gently until the garlic is golden and aromatic.
  4. Toss the cooked orecchiette and cime di rapa into the skillet, stirring well to coat with the anchovy and garlic oil. If needed, add a bit of reserved pasta water to loosen things up.
  5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, giving it one final toss to combine.
  6. Serve the Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa in warm bowls, perhaps with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to honor the rustic simplicity of this dish.

Proven Tips for Culinary Success

  • The bitterness of cime di rapa is a characteristic flavor, but if desired, it can be blanched first to soften its bite.
  • Dissolving anchovy fillets in olive oil provides a depth of flavor that's not fishy, but rich and savory.
  • A quality extra virgin olive oil will enhance the flavors and pay homage to the Apulian tradition.

Anticipated FAQs

  • Can I substitute the anchovies for something else? Yes, if you prefer a vegetarian dish, omit the anchovies. You might add a bit of soy sauce or tamari for umami flavor.
  • What can I use if I can't find cime di rapa? Broccoli rabe is a good substitute for cime di rapa, or in a pinch, you could use broccoli or spinach.
  • Can I use a different type of pasta? While orecchiette is traditional, any small pasta like penne or farfalle can work in this dish.

Apulian Echoes: The Rustic Charm of Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa is a soulful nod to the humble culinary traditions of Southern Italy. Each ingredient is a stanza in a rustic poem, a tribute to the simplistic yet profound flavors that define the heart and soul of Apulia’s cuisine. Through the modest elegance of this dish, experience a humble feast that resonates with the earthy charm of Italy's heel.