I love the boisterous flavors of Southern Italy! Today I was able to prepare a delicious lunch with ingredients from the five southernmost regions (Puglia, Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Basilicata).
Ingredienti. As is often the case, the meal was driven by the choice of exciting ingredients. In this case the trigger was a beautiful (and inexpensive) bunch of Broccoli Rabe, which I bought at Russo’s in Watertown on Wednesday. A quick search of a few favorite cookbooks led me to two similar recipes, which seemed to be more satisfying than my usual preparation for this vegetable. The prime recipe was from Mario Batali – Broccoli Rabe alla Pugliese. It was also very similar to one from Arthur Schwartz, from his book about the food of Naples (Campania).
- 1 bunch of Broccoli Rabe
- 4 good sized cloves of garlic (peeled)
- 1/2 dried Calabrian red chili pepper
- 10 Gaeta olives, peeled and chopped (from Campania)
- 1-2 Sicilian salted anchovies, rinsed, filleted and chopped fine (leave out for vegan)
- 1/4 cup Pugliese olive oil
- 1 cup Kite Hill almond milk ricotta
- 1/4 cup of Spanish oil for the ricotta purée
- 3 slices of Tuscan pane
Technique. Prep and cook the Rabe. Prepare the ricotta purée. Grill the bread. Assemble and serve.
- Wash the Rabe well. Trim the stems. Cut in 1″ slices. Blanch for 3-4 minutes in boiling, salted water. Remove and drain.
- Take a large pot with a lid. Put 1/4 cup of Pugliese olive oil, the garlic, and pieces of chili in the pot. Heat over moderate flame until the garlic is tender — about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the blanched Broccoli Rabe and anchovy, cover, and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes, until the Rabe is very tender. Add the chopped olives, mix, and keep warm.
- In the meantime, make the whipped ricotta. Put the ricotta into the bowl of a small food processor, and make a coarse purée. With the motor running, add enough of the Spanish olive oil to make a fluffy, light purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and blend again. (Can you use more Puglia oil? Of course! Even Greek, if you like.)
- Slice and grill (or toast) the bread. I used Tuscan pane. It’s a white bread and a bit too refined for this dish, but it’s what we have, and it tastes good. A more rustic, whole-grained loaf would be more authentic.
- Spread the purée on the grilled bread. Cover with the reserved Broccoli Rabe.
- Serve with a robust, earthy Southern red wine. My choice was Antelio, an Aglianico from the volcanic soil around Mount Vulture in Basilicata. Could not have been better, but a good Negroamaro or Amalfi Coast blend of Aglianico and Piedirosso would work well too.