Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Pecorino
1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
2. Meanwhile, if using bunch broccoli rabe, trim off any discolored tips from the bottom and use a paring knife to peel the skin off the thicker stems. Sever all the stems from the crowns. Wash the greens in abundant cold water. Use pre-washed bagged broccoli rabe as is.
3. To the boiling water, add the kosher salt and the 3 tablespoons olive oil, followed by the broccoli rabe. Cook over high heat until the greens are tender but firm, a total of 8 minutes.
4. Use a mesh strainer to lift the greens out of the pot and transfer them to a colander; save the cooking water. Drain well, pressing to release excess water. They should be moist but not wet.
5. Coarsely grind the almonds, if using; the garlic, and pepper flakes, if using, in a food processor, 10-15 seconds.
Add the drained broccoli rabe and 1/4 cup olive oil; pulse to puree until the greens are creamy but still have some texture. Check for salt. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and while it is still warm, fold in the grated cheese.
6. Bring the rabe cooking water back to a boil and add the additional 1 tablespoon kosher salt and the pasta. Follow package directions to cook the pasta “al dente.” Drain and toss with enough of the rabe pesto to cover lightly, about 6 tablespoons for a pound of fusilli. Save the remaining pesto. Serve with an additional thread of olive oil, if desired, and grated cheese at the table.
COOK’S TIP: The ideal cut for this pesto is fusilli for its ability to trap the creamy sauce between its spirals. Other good matches include orecchiette, penne, or bucatini. The best quality dried pastas are imported Italian cuts for their ability to retain their elasticity, thus remain al dente (tender but firm to the bite) from pot to table, and for their superior wheaty flavor.
TO STORE THE PESTO: To freeze, proceed to step 3 but don’t add in the grated cheese. Allow the pesto to cool and store it in a freeze-proof container. To use, thaw in the refrigerator and bring the pesto to room temperature. There is no need to reheat it if tossing with piping hot pasta.
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