Region: Italy, Apulia
Category: Pasta with Fish
Difficulty: Easy and Quick
Orecchiette, “little ears,” are a favorite pasta shape in the southern Italian region of Apulia, the heel of the Italian boot. They are made with hard wheat flour and water, sometimes with the addition of barley flour, by rolling a long thick rope of dough, cutting small sections off, and pressing down with ones thumb or a knife and rolling it towards you so they form a cowry shell shape. If it remains as this shape its called cavatelli. But what the cook does now is turn the cowry shell inside out and to become orecchiette that are then set out to dry.
In this recipe, beet leaves are wilted in a pan and then tossed with olives and tuna sott’olio, tuna preserved in olive oil. Beet leaves can be a touch bitter so I think you will find the balance of tuna, garlic, and olives enhanced by the abundant use of pecorino cheese and red chile flakes.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 2 servings
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups loosely-packed chopped beet leaves, stems discarded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
15 imported black olives, pitted and chopped
One 4-ounce can imported tuna, packed in olive oil
1/2 pound orecchiette
Freshly grated pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano cheese to tasteRed chile flakes to taste
1. In large skillet or flame-proof casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat with the beet leaves, salt, and pepper and cook until they wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the anchovy fillets, garlic, parsley, and olives and cook for 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and toss with the tuna.
2. Meanwhile, for every pound of pasta, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt abundantly with up to 1/2 cup of salt, then add the pasta in handfuls. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together, until al dente. Drain without rinsing.
3. Transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce. Sprinkle with pecorino cheese and red chile flakes and toss again. Serve immediately.