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"Little Ears" from Puglia, and a Zesty Olive-and-Tomato Sauce


Orecchiette: Little ears, a classic pasta shape from Puglia.

Orecchiette: Little ears, a classic pasta shape from Puglia

Orecchiette are one of the classic pasta shapes from Puglia, and though they were rare elsewhere when I moved to Italy in 1982, they have by now become commonplace. The name, orecchiette, means little ears because they resemble the human ear in shape. They're smaller, however, about a half-inch in diameter (1 cm).

Cooking time? 10-15 minutes, depending upon the brand. Or less, if you make them yourself from soft wheat flour.

Possible substitutions: Conchiglie (shells -- small ones), farfalle, cavatelli.

Orecchiette are especially renowned as being an accompaniment for broccoli rabe, but do nicely with other things too, for example black olives. To serve 4 you'll need:
  • 1 pound (400 g) orecchiette
  • 6 ounces (150 g) pitted sweet black olives, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A small bunch parsley, leaves stripped from the stems and minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste diluted in 2 tablespoons water, or 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
Heat pasta water, salt it, and set the orecchiette to cooking.

In the meantime, sauté the garlic in the olive oil, add the olives, and continue to simmer. When they have cooked somewhat, stir in the tomato and continue to simmer. Drain the pasta, heat it through with the sauce, dust it with the minced parsley, and serve.

More about Orecchiette and other recipes for them.

More About Pasta Shapes
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