50connect welcomes Virginia Webb, founder of The Good Fork, as a new contributor to our food & drink channel.
Do you like Italian food? Who doesn’t I hear you say! But really there is no such thing as Italian food at all, what there is however, is a panoply of different regional cuisines, that change within the distance of a few miles. Being such a long streak of a country its landscapes and climates vary massively from lush alpine meadows in the North, to parched wheat fields in the South, and so the local produce changes. Also different bits of Italy have been invaded and colonised by different countries and cultures over the centuries. All this has played its part in fomenting a huge range of foods and recipes; though I’m completely partisan, I think there is so much more diversity to the food from Italy than any other country in Europe. So I’d like to introduce you to some of my favourite parts of Italy in a whistle-stop tour – naturally refuelling ourselves on great recipes along the way!
For no other reason than it’s nice to think about sunny parts of the world while we’re in chilly January, let’s start with Apulia, or Puglia as it is in Italian. The heel of Italy, this region has come to the fore in recent years – canny investors and entrepreneurs seeing the potential of its great coastline and historic and charming cities and towns. With a range of new hotels, we Brits are making our way down South and enjoying some great local food – not to mention the wines.
Orecchiette alla Barese
Here’s an anglicised version of a classic Pugliese dish. Orecchiette are literally ‘little ears’. Traditionally they are hand-made in the spring, by taking small cubes of pasta dough and dragging it over a special board to achieve a rough texture on one side, before hollowing out a little dip in the centre with the thumb. The sauce for this recipe in Puglia would use ‘cime di rapa’ a member of the brassica family that has small heads like broccoli. Well, orecchiette might not be available at every shop, but they are available from The Good Fork in January’s boxes, but equally other pasta shapes would be fine with this recipe. And, broccoli makes a successful and healthy substitution for ‘cima di rape’ which I’ve never seen in this country.
This is tasty and simple recipe, which has a little southern heat in it, making it perfect for a cold wintry day.
Serves 4 as a starter, increase quantities to half again to make it a main course.
350g of orecchiette
One large head of broccoli
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp of olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
A large pinch chilli flakes or half a chilli finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Pecorino cheese grated
Wash and chop the broccoli into florets – you can also use the stalk, so chop this up too.
Put a saucepan of salted water to boil and add the orecchiette, bring back to a medium fast boil and after around 5 minutes add the broccoli. The aim is to have the pasta cooked until al dente and the broccoli just tender at the same time – but do not worry if you cook the broccoli a little too much – better that than the pasta being too soggy!
Meanwhile in a frying pan, heat the oil on a low heat and cook the chopped garlic gently until transparent (don’t let it brown). A Orecchiette alla BareseOrecchiette alla Baresedd the anchovy fillets and chilli. Mash the anchovies and cook gently for another minute or two
When the pasta is cooked drain it and the broccoli well, then add to the frying pan with the anchovy, garlic and oil mixture. Add a couple of tablespoons of grated pecorino, season and stir well
Serve in bowls with a hunk of pecorino cheese on the table to grate more according to taste
Buon Appetito!Last modified: June 10, 2021