Weeknight Cooking

Pasta With Broccoli Rabe & White Bean–Anchovy Sauce

November 22, 2015
6 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

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).

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated January 1998 issue. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for garnishing
  • 2 (15 1/2–ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed (I used cannellini, but any kind of white bean is fine)
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable stock (homemade or low-sodium)
  • 1 splash heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound orecchiette, penne, or other short, tubular pasta
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe, washed well, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, for garnishing (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, for garnishing (optional)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add greens; cook until greens are wilted fully and pasta is al dente, 3 to 4 minutes longer.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cheryl
  • Angela Wilson Gyetvan
    Angela Wilson Gyetvan
  • Laura Grahame
    Laura Grahame
  • Rhonda35
  • AKeyte

19 Reviews

Sylvia December 27, 2019
Quick, easy & delicious! I used all the anchovies in the tin. Also added some thinly sliced yellow onion to the anchovies, garlic & pepper. I’ll definitely be making this again.
Cheryl February 26, 2019
Delicious! I used the olive oil from the anchovies (and all anchovies from the tin), about 6 cloves garlic. I cooked the broccoli rabe in the pasta water before I put in the pasta and scooped it out, putting it in the sauce to rest with the lid on while I cooked the pasta. I used 1/2 lb Banza chickpea pasta/shells. Since I eat vegan (occasionally fish, so anchovies were ok this time), I made cashew-based creme fraiche and used it in place of the cream and ricotta. I'd like to try it next time without the cream. A really satisfying dish. Thank you!
Elizabeth April 30, 2022
The original recipe, from the Puglia region in Italy, is just anchovies, garlic, hot peppers, olive oil, broccoli rabe. No need for any kind of cheese. Buon Apetito!
Angela W. December 13, 2017
Leftover broccoli rabe and some anchovies in the fridge, whipped this up. Delish. Agree with the comment about the pasta water - didn't really need it, Can't wait to eat the rest tomorrow. :)
The I. May 27, 2017
I was looking forward to this recipe, but in the end we found it to be a bit bland. Next time, I would add in more garlic, anchovy and lemon.
Laura G. February 24, 2017
I make some version of this so often. But instead of the cream, I add a lot of lemon zest which really enhances the anchovy flavor for some reason.
Sarah J. February 24, 2017
Great tip! Thanks for sharing.
Rhonda35 January 11, 2017
Great recipe! The only change I made was to use crumbled goat cheese rather than fresh ricotta as a garnish because it's what I had in the fridge. Next time I won't add the reserved pasta sauce until everything else is combined - I thought it was a little bit soupy and could have done without the water. Thanks for sharing this delicious dish, Sarah!
AKeyte December 20, 2015
I really enjoyed this dish. The sauce had a great anchovy flavour, which (sadly) becomes much more diluted when mixed with the pasta and greens. I used Chinese Broccoli because I couldn't find any broccoli rabe.
Liz B. December 17, 2015
I made this with anchovy paste and dandelion greens (no broccoli rabe at my local store), adding some diced portobellas that I needed to use up. I think I used too much anchovy paste - I had to tone the sauce down with some sour cream stirred into the final product with the pasta because it was way too salty. Also next time I'll cook the greens with the sauce rather than with the pasta, the pasta took way longer than anticipated and the greens got overcooked. It was still good though - very filling with enough leftovers for days, plus it came together quickly!
mainesoul December 6, 2015
I just finished eating this. It was great. Loved it. I do love anchovies. It might not be for everyone but for those who understand and love anchovies, go for it.
Leslie S. December 2, 2015
Oh! Will try this this weekend! :)
Sarah J. December 3, 2015
YAY! I hope you like it!
Eugenia C. December 2, 2015
Sarah!! Before I posted that I didn't realize this was your recipe! I hope things are well!! We have made your pumpkin cake so many times now!!
Sarah J. December 3, 2015
EUGE! I miss you :). I'd start with 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons of anchovy paste.
Eugenia C. December 4, 2015
Sarah! I miss you too!! You should come visit Danna and I in Boston!! We can have a cooking party :)
Eugenia C. December 4, 2015
Or we can cook for you since you probably need a break from that...
Sarah J. December 4, 2015
Just tell me when!
Eugenia C. December 2, 2015
Hi, this looks great! I was wondering if you could replace the anchovies with anchovy paste and if so how much you would recommend.