Many cooks outside of Italy have at last discovered broccoli rabe—a vegetable with tender leaves and small broccoli-like florets—but it is rarely cooked properly. The secret is to boil the greens briefly in salted water before sautéing to mellow their bitter edge and tenderize the stalks.
Rigatoni with Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas
2 lb. (1 kg) broccoli rabe
3 Tbs. kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced lengthwise
2 small dried chiles or a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup (7 oz./220 g) drained cooked chickpeas, well rinsed
Fine sea salt, to taste
3/4 lb. (375 g) rigatoni
Using a small, sharp knife or vegetable peeler, peel away the thick skin from the tough lower stalks of the broccoli rabe (most of the bottom stalk portion). Cut crosswise into 3-inch (7.5-cm) lengths. Place in a bowl, add cold water to cover and let stand for 1 hour.
Fill a saucepan three-fourths full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the greens and add to the boiling water along with 1 Tbs. of the kosher salt. Cover partially and cook for 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil.
While the broccoli rabe is cooking, in a fry pan large enough to accommodate the pasta later, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chiles, reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté gently until the garlic colors, about 5 minutes. Drain the greens and add them, still dripping wet, to the fry pan. Increase the heat to medium, stir well and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are heated through and the greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with sea salt. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large pot over high heat, bring 5 quarts (5 l) water to a rapid boil. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. kosher salt and the pasta, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package instructions.
Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss to combine, adding up to a few tablespoons of the cooking water if needed to moisten the sauce so that it coats the pasta nicely. Transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and serve immediately. Serves 4.
For this and more than 100 other fresh ideas for preparing pasta, check out Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce.