This is a very typical dish from Puglia in the south of Italy, where my parents both grew up. It's been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. Back when I was little, I'd stay with my grandparents during the day while my parents were at work and my grandmother would cook this for me just about every night for dinner. Somehow I never got tired of it - just the opposite - and it's still my favorite pasta dish today. Enjoy! —Donata
Cut off the stems from broccoli rabe leaves and florets; discard the stems. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and blanch the broccoli rabe for 1 minute. Drain and spread out on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Use the towel to squeeze out the excess liquid and ensure they’re dried well. Chop the broccoli rabe into small pieces and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt well as it’s coming to a boil. Once it’s at a rolling boil add the orecchiette and cook according to package instructions until al dente (usually 10-12 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over low-medium heat in a large pan. Add the anchovy fillets and break them up using the back of a wooden spoon. Cook them gently for a few minutes until they dissolve.
Add the chili flakes to the pan. Peel and smash the garlic cloves and add to the pan as well. Continue to cook gently until the garlic is golden and fragrant.
Add the broccoli rabe to the pan along with another tablespoon of olive oil. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the broccoli rabe are warmed through.
When the pasta is ready, remove one or two ladlefuls of the pasta water and reserve. Then drain the pasta and add to the pan with the broccoli rabe. Add some of the reserved pasta water along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir everything to combine. Removed the garlic cloves. Taste and add salt if needed.
Top with the freshly grated pecorino cheese and enjoy!