Serves: Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 2 bunches (about 1½ pounds each) broccoli rabe
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, bruised with knife
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
- 2 cups tiny cherry or grape tomatoes
- About 3 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 pound dried orecchiette, cavatelli, or shell pasta
- 1 (6-ounce) wedge ricotta salata cheese, sliced into small pieces with a cheese plane
- Place a pasta insert in an 8-quart stockpot and fill threefourths full with water. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Wash the broccoli rabe thoroughly in cold water and drain. Trim off the thick, fibrous portion from the base of the stalks, usually about ½ inch. Cut the tender stalks and the thin tops with flowers attached into 1½-inch lengths. Set aside.
- Heat the oil and garlic together in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over low heat for 30 seconds, or just until the garlic begins to sizzle. Decrease the heat to very low and cook the garlic, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Be careful that it does not brown. Stir in the red pepper and remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the tomatoes and let stand until the pasta is ready.
- Add the salt to the boiling water. Gradually add the pasta, stirring with a slotted spoon. Cook, uncovered, stirring gently until the water comes back to a boil. Cook the pasta for 8 minutes, or until almost tender. Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling pasta and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. The broccoli rabe and pasta should be quite soft.
- Set a large, shallow pasta bowl or deep platter on the counter next to the pot on the stove. With mitted hands, slowly lift the pasta insert from the pot and hold it briefly over the pot to allow the water to drip out, then set it on the bowl. Ladle out ½ cup of the pasta cooking water from the pot and reserve.
- Transfer the cooked pasta and the ½ cup cooking water to the tomato mixture in the skillet. Stir gently over mediumlow heat for about 2 minutes, or until combined.
- Pour out any water left in the serving bowl, dry the bowl, and spoon in the pasta, greens, garlic, oil and juices. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve at once.
If Not Using the Pasta Insert:
- Fill an 8-quart stockpot three-fourths full with water and bring to a boil. Proceed as directed through step 4.
- When the pasta and broccoli rabe are cooked, place a large, shallow pasta bowl or deep platter in the sink with a colander set inside and drain the pasta in the colander. This method of draining the pasta in the serving bowl simultaneously warms the serving bowl and saves some of the pasta cooking water for adding flavor and moisture to the finished dish.
- Proceed as directed in steps 6 and 7.