Broccoli Rabe, Feta and Mint Pasta
Makes 4 servings
Pleasantly bitter broccoli rabe, lightly sharp feta cheese, and refreshing mint perk up tomato sauce in an inventive meatless meal. I use sheep’s milk cheese for its fresh, authentic flavor. The pasta is so satisfying, no side dish is needed.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 oz pancetta, chopped (optional) (60 g)
1 onion, finely chopped
red pepper flakes
1 can Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano (28 oz/875 g)
coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bunches broccoli rabe, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces (about 13⁄4 lb/875 g total weight)
14½ - 16 oz rotini pasta, preferably multigrain (410–500 g)
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
¾ cup good quality Feta cheese, crumbled (1⁄4 lb/125 g)
In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the pancetta, if using, and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and 2 large pinches of red pepper flakes to the pan and sauté until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water and bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens and the flavors blend, 15–20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until just tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli rabe to a bowl. Add the pasta to the pot, stir well, and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Return the broccoli rabe to the pot and cook until heated through, about 30 seconds.
Drain the pasta and broccoli rabe. Return to the same pot. Add the sauce and mint and stir to coat. Mix in 1⁄2 cup (3 oz/90 g) of the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the pasta to a warmed shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve right away.
Keep pancetta, high-quality canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and pasta on hand in the pantry for quick dinners that need no advance planning. Crumbled fresh goat cheese or grated pecorino romano cheese are delicious alternatives to the feta. Feel free to substitute any short pasta shapes such as fusilli or penne for the rotini.