When I came across Broccoli Rabe and Orecchiette with White Bean-Anchovy Sauce on the Cook's Illustrated website, it seemed to fulfill all of my great pasta expectations. But the results were disappointing: The pasta was mostly dry and the "sauce" mythical—a case where the name of the recipe tasted better than the food itself.
To turn it into what I had imagined it would be—where the orecchiette was not in the way of the sauce but empowered by it—I upped the amount of broth; added cream and ricotta for richness (though you can omit those at your discretion); and mashed the beans to a soft consistency. For brightness and spice, there's lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
Ready quickly (with minimal mess), incredibly flavorful, satisfying enough to eat alone yet acceptable to serve to company, this pasta meets all of my criteria (and I hope yours, too).
In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, heat the oil, anchovy, garlic, and red pepper flakes, stirring until anchovy dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add beans, stock, and cream (if using). Simmer to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes, smashing the beans gently with a wooden spoon so that some of the beans remain whole but about half become mushy. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. When boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook until pasta just begins to soften, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add greens; cook until greens are wilted fully and pasta is al dente, 3 to 4 minutes longer.
Reserve 1/3 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and greens and return to pot. Add sauce and reserved pasta water and cook over medium-low heat, stirring to meld flavors, about 1 minute.
Taste for salt and pepper. Squeeze half a lemon over the pot and mix to combine. Mix in several dollops of fresh ricotta (if using). Serve immediately, topping with grated cheese and more red pepper flakes at the table.