This is a standby at La Romita, and one of Edmund’s favorite recipes. Like many dishes served at La Romita, it has just a few ingredients: the challenge of this deceptively simple dish comes in its preparation, which while not lengthy (I made it in about 35 minutes) involves attention to detail.
Cima di Rapa – literally, turnip tops – translates to turnip greens: at La Romita either turnip greens or broccoli rabe are used interchangeably for this recipe, depending on what’s in season. I used broccoli rabe, since in the winter that’s readily available in many stores across the United States in the winter. Egizia informs us that you can also use frozen cima di rapa, though that might not be easier to find if your grocery store doesn’t carry it fresh. Orecchiette pasta (“little ears”) is the traditional, and best shape, for this dish, although you can of course substitute another short pasta shape such as conchiegle (“shells”).
America’s Test Kitchen has a 5 minute video describing the preparation of Spaghetti with Pecorino and Black Pepper – Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe – a classic Roman pasta dish. Reserving water the pasta has been cooked in and later adding it to the dish is a technique every Italian raised in Italy seems to know, and this video explains the scientific basis for why it works – fascinating.