How to Make: Cime di Rapa pasta with black olives, pine nuts & ricotta
Rapini, a cruciferous green vegetable, is particularly associated with Italian cuisine. Available with different names throughout the country, rapini is better known as ‘Cime di Rapa’ in Puglia – literally meaning “turnip tops”. The distinctively bitter leaves are often paired with creamy pasta dishes, as is the case with this recipe from Panzer’s Deli and Grocer in St John’s Wood.
Another Puglian staple, the recipe also features Benedetto Cavalieri dischi volanti (or orecchiette). Like all pasta, orecchiette is best when made fresh, although the dried alternative is far more convenient. With a thicker lobe stretching the perimeter of each shell, dried orecchiette has a tendency to cook unevenly. Moreover, it’s relatively simple to make at home: far less fiddly than tortellini or ravioli.
One of London’s most Instagram-friendly food stores, Panzer’s first opened in 1944, but has recently reopened with a fresh refurbishment. Serving international foods from more than 80 countries around the world, Panzer’s Deli and Grocer is now home to an in-store coffee bar and sushi counter.
“This Italian leaf has a lovely bitterness that is perfectly offset by creamy ricotta. You can make this dish in the time it takes the pasta to cook, so you can have it on the table within 20 minutes.”
Cime di rapa, 700g
Benedetto Cavalieri dischi volanti or orecchiette, 500g
Red Cow parmesan, 2 heaped tbsp, grated (plus extra to serve)
Centonze extra virgin olive oil, 6tbsp
Fresh Italian ricotta, 200g
Garlic, 2 small cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Dried chilli flakes, a pinch
Fennel seeds, 1 tsp
Seggiano Calabrian olives, 6, (or 2 tbsp small black olives, de-stoned and roughly chopped)
Pine nuts, 3 tbsp, toasted
Bring a deep pan of salted water to the boil. Prepare the cime di rapa by cutting the leaves and stalks into 4cm lengths, retaining the broccoli-like shoots and discarding the woody stems and any stalks thicker than 1cm. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the thickest stalks are tender, then scoop out the water and transfer into a colander. Add the pasta to the greens cooking water and cook according to the packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, stir the parmesan and one tablespoon of oil into the ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Put to one side for a moment.
Warm the four tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and fry gently until it begins to colour, then add the chilli and fennel seeds. A few moments later, add the drained cime di rapa, olives and pine nuts, and stir everything until it all comes together. The cime will be soft and falling apart. Season to taste and keep warm over a low heat.
Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain, reserving a small cup of cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pan, add the greens and place over a low heat. Stir everything gently together along with a few splashes of pasta water and another tablespoon of oil to make a loose sauce. Transfer to plates, and dollop over the ricotta. Grate over a little extra parmesan and another drizzle of oil, then serve.