We've had a string of cold and rainy spring days, so we're craving something warm and comforting, yet still seasonal. Enter rapini – the bitter greens are a perfect match for white beans a little pasta in a dish that's not the most beautiful, but is quite delicious.
Rapini is nearing the end of its peak growing season in the northern hemisphere. We found beautiful bunches on opening day of one local Chicago farmers' market.
Our favorite part of this dish might be the one you can't see – the broth. It's very simple but so flavorful. Simmer vegetable stock with lemon juice until it reduces by half, and then when the dish is almost done, add grated Parmesan or Grana Padana cheese and lemon zest. The cheese disappears into the broth and creates a wonderful richness.
We started with a Giada De Laurentis recipe for Fresh Fettucine with Roasted Chicken and Broccoli Rabe and ended up this vegetarian version. We have to credit the original recipe for the broth though – that was all Giada.
Rapini with Orecchiette and White Beans
1 pound rapini, washed well and trimmed
5 ounces dried orecchiette
2 cups vegetable stock
1 (16 ounce) can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup grated Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rapini and cook for 2 minutes. Remove rapini with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Set aside. To the same water, add the orecchiette and cook according to package directions.
You'll need the juice and zest from the lemon, so zest now and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add vegetable stock and juice from the lemon, simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beans and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the pasta, broccoli rabe, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, olive oil and half of the cheese. Stir until well combined and cheese has melted into the broth. Remove from heat.
Serve in bowls and top with remaining cheese.
Related: Recipe: Sesame Broccoli Rabe
(Image: Joanna Miller)