Orecchiette, meaning “little ears” are adorable little pastas originating from Puglia. These pasta are traditionally cooked with broccoli rabe (also known as ‘cima di rapa’ in Italian) and sausage. Sometimes, they’re served in a tomato sauce with shaved ricotta salata on top. Their ‘cup’ like shape is perfect for small pieces of meat or vegetables that can nestle inside. After making them several times, I wanted to develop a recipe that adheres to similar components in the traditional dish, while experimenting with a different set of flavors based on what I had at home. As a result, I paired the orecchiette with two different forms of peas (peas and pea shoots), chorizo, and mint.
Orecchiette with chorizo, peas, pea shoots, and mint
The handmade pasta were definitely tougher for me to shape properly, so I’ve provided some notes in the recipe below that will hopefully help!
Orecchiette pasta have a thicker outer ring and a thinner, rougher inside surface forming a ‘cup’ like shape.
Recipe: Orecchiette Pasta
- 1 cup durum semolina flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅔ - 1 cup warm water, not hot
- In a medium bowl, mix the two flours together. Mound the flour on a work surface, and make a well in the center. Place about 2 tablespoons of water in the well. With two fingers, stir in some of the flour off the walls and into the center. When the water has been absorbed, repeat with more water, always adding small amounts, until you have a soft dough. (You will probably need between ⅔ cup and 1 cup water.)
- Knead the dough until it is smooth and soft, about 10 minutes. If it crumbles while you are kneading, wet your hands a few times to incorporate a small amount of additional liquid.
- Lightly flour a baking sheet with semolina, and set aside. Cut off a piece of dough the width of two fingers, and put the remaining dough under an overturned bowl or wrap with plastic wrap, to keep it from drying out. On the work surface, roll the piece of dough into a rope 1 cm wide (slightly less than ½”). Cut the rope into 1 cm square pieces.
- To form the orecchiette, take 1 square piece and roll into a ball*. Grab a butter knife, and starting at the top of the ball, firmly drag a butter knife almost to end of the opposite edge. This helps create a thinner rough surface on the inside and thicker outside edges.
- Peel the outside edges slightly to form a circle shape, then invert on your finger, pressing the dough all around to finish forming the circular shape. Transfer to the baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.
Recipe: Chorizo, Peas & Mint Pasta
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½ lb ground Spanish or Spanish-style chorizo sausage, casings removed — I received a raw, Spanish style chorizo for this recipe but if you can only find the cured, hard sausage, you can use that too! If using the hard sausage, cut up into thin slices
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup chicken stock, or sub with white wine if you have it!
- 2 cups packed pea shoots, roughly chopped — broccoli rabe, dandelion greens, baby spinach, or another cooking green works well here too! If using broccoli rabe or another bitter green, blanch in salt water for 3 minutes prior to cooking in the sauce, cool, then roughly chop
- ½ cup frozen peas
- fresh orecchiette, recipe above or 8 oz dry orecchiette
- 4-5 mint leaves, chiffonade for garnish
- parm or pecorino cheese, shaved for garnish
- Set a large pot of water to boil.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a large saucepan, heat oil at medium heat then add sausage into the pan. If using raw sausage, break into small pieces with a wooden spoon and cook until golden brown and crispy on all sides and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. If using cooked chorizo, saute for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on both sides. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside, reserving as much oil as possible in the saucepan.
- Add the red onion to the pan and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes at medium heat. If there isn’t enough residual oil left, you can add some additional olive oil.
- Turn the heat down to medium low and add the garlic and red pepper flakes until aromatic, fragrant and barely golden brown, about 1 minute.
- Once the water is boiling, salt the water then add the orecchiette pasta. For fresh pasta, boil for 1-2 minutes until the orecchiette float to the surface then boil for an additional 2-3 minutes until chewy and al dente. For dry pasta, follow according to instructions on the package. 1 minute before the pasta is done, add the frozen peas into the water.
- Add the pea shoots and saute for 1 minute, then add the chicken stock/wine and increase the heat to medium high until the liquid has come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer until reduced for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Once the pasta is cooked, transfer both the pasta and the peas to the saucepan with a slotted spoon, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Add the reserved sausage back into the pan. Keep saucepan heat at medium, and stir ingredients together adding a couple tablespoons of pasta water to let the sauce come together and cling to the pasta. Add additional pasta water if too dry.
- Season again with salt and pepper, then plate and garnish with mint and cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!