Thursday, January 26, 2012
I'll admit that I was a little nervous when I made this a couple of weeks ago while still in NYC. I had a feeling that R was not going to necessarily appreciate the broccoli rabe, since he's tried it before and hated it. But as with endive or mustard greens, I've always found the bitterness to be appealing. Then again, I also find marathons and long-distance triathlons appealing, so perhaps my propensity for a little self-punishment (if we're considering bitter vegetables to be in the same category) is a clue.
As a safety precaution, since I didn't think I'd be able to fully trust R's opinion in the matter, I made this dish when I was planning on feeding a good friend, an innocent bystander, with little knowledge of R's incredibly picky palate. So at least you can be confident that the vote about this meal was two-to-one, with the bitter-vegetable lover's winning out in the end.
By way of explanation. R didn't hate this. He said it was 'okay', and trust me that he would have used a stronger descriptor if he'd had any real feelings about it. If he'd hated it, for example. J, the guinea-pig friend, and I ate it up. Then I continued eating it up for lunch the next day without even offering to share. The power of a bitter vegetable.
Penne with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta
Adapted from Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray's River Cafe Cookbook Green
2 large bunches broccoli rabe
1 pound box penne
1/3 pound pancetta, have your butcher finely slice it, then you can julienne it at home
Olive oil for the pan
3 garlic cloves, passed through a press
1 2 pound can of peeled plum tomatoes, or close to that weight it doesn't have to be exact
Salt and pepper to taste
Zest of 1 lemon, be sure to wash before you zest
Handful of parsley, chopped
150 grams Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Heat the olive oil in a 10" skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic along with the pancetta until fragrant and lightly browned. In the meantime, strain the canned tomatoes from their juices, retaining half of the juice. Add the tomatoes and the reserved juice to the pan and season with salt. Cook until the juices are quite reduced, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, 20-30 minutes.
Tear the leaves and buds from the stems of the broccoli rabe. Wash and tear into pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and plunge the broccoli rabe into the water for 5 minutes. Drain, then put into a bowl along with the lemon zest, the parsley and a good coating of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring another large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne for the amount of time indicated on the package. Drain and mix into the tomato sauce, then add the broccoli rabe mixture and season again with salt and pepper. Toss to be sure everything is well-coated and serve with the freshly grated cheese.