Orecchiette pasta (little ears) is a staple of the Puglia region, where I was born, where the most traditional version is with a leafy vegetable called RAPINI which resembles broccoli in the appearance but has a slightly bitter taste.

The bitterness is perfectly balanced out by the flavor of the pasta (especially when freshly made), the olive oil and the anchovies. Yes! Anchovies wonderfully marry and add a great kick to the sauce that would otherwise be a simple garlic and olive oil sauce.

Unfortunately for me rapini is a little challenging to find where I live so I switched to our health very best friend: BROCCOLI!

Adding vegetables to my pasta allows me to limit the carbs amount and use the veggies in bigger proportion and as a filler. The result is that you won’t entirely give up your pasta crave but you will curb it to the recommended daily dose. How cool is that!

IMPORTANT TRICK: if you use fresh pasta and once you bring your salted water to a boil, cook the pasta and the vegetables together in order to incorporate the flavor. If instead the pasta is dry, cook the vegetables first, remove it from the water but save the water to cook the pasta! This to avoid the veggies to overcook as the little ears take longer.

So here it is:


A staple in the Region of Puglia, Italy
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time19 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Little ear Pasta, orecchiette pasta, pasta with broccoli
Servings: 4 people
Author: Erika Price
Cost: $


  • 24 oz FRESH BROCCOLI cut in small florets before boiling
  • 8 filet ANCHOVIES cut small (skip if vegan)
  • 2 cloves GARLIC minced
  • 1 or 2 pinch RED PEPPER FLAKES or CAYENNE PEPPER (optional)
  • SALT as needed


  • In a large pot bring salted water to a boil and add the broccoli florets; cook for about 5 minutes or until bright green;
  • Meantime in a sautee' pan add the evoo, minced garlic, red pepper flakes (or cayenne) and anchovies filets; sautee' for 5 minutes occasionally stirring the anchovies; you may also mash the anchovies with a wooden spoon while sauteing it, until dissolved. Set the sauce aside.
  • With a skimmer spoon, remove all the broccoli and drain the excess water in a pasta drainer;
  • Add the pasta to the same water you boiled the broccoli in and cook as indicated on the box;
  • Add the broccoli to the saucepan with 6 TBSP of the pasta water and sautee' for 5 minutes on medium low heat;
  • Drain all the water from the pasta and add it to the saucepan with the broccoli. Sautee' for 4 minutes, turn the heat off, add a drizzle of evoo, toss and serve!

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