Penne with garlic, broccoli rabe and speck

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Is it me, or is this fall is just zooming by? I think that’s partly due to the extremely cold weather we’re having here in Boston this week, and by the fact that the holidays are totally sneaking up on me this year. It just occurred to me the other day that Thanksgiving is next week! Guess I better get to the grocery store…

Which totally bums me out, because it also means farmer’s market season is winding down. Even though there’s an indoor winter farmer’s market that will start in December, it doesn’t really compare with the outdoor one down in the square near my house, that happens every Saturday from May through November. There are at least five produce vendors there every week, though at this time of the year, the selection is mostly the winter squashes, apples, and hearty greens.

Last Saturday, it was frigid enough out that I didn’t want to spend a good deal of time pondering the options, and with no particular recipe plans in mind, I grabbed a butternut squash (something I cook with frequently), Brussels sprouts (which I love), and–on a whim–broccoli rabe. Believe it or not, I’ve never cooked broccoli rabe before. Broccolini, sure, and regular broccoli is in our fridge quite often, but the leafy broccoli rabe had not yet made it into my cooking.

So last night, as I trying to figure out what to cook, Rob suggested garlic pasta–a frequent staple for a fast, easy meal on a night we’re both tired. Then I remembered the broccoli rabe. I also had a few slices of Italian speck (like proscuitto) leftover from company last weekend, and so that made it in too. The result was, in a word, delicious.

The salty, rich speck complemented the bitter greens just perfectly; lots of garlic and crushed red pepper spiced it all up, and topped with grated parmigiano reggiano, this dish was one of the most satisfying versions of garlic pasta I’ve made in a while.

This is not a fussy recipe; it was a quick weeknight meal. Amounts are approximate; use more or less garlic or crushed red pepper if you wish. I used mini penne with this because it’s what I had on hand, but if I made this again I’d probably use linguine.

Penne with garlic, broccoli rabe and speck

  • 1 box mini penne (or pasta of choice)
  • olive oil
  • about 4 slices of Italian speck, or proscuitto, chopped into small pieces
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • good pinch or more of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed, large stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • white wine
  • parmigiano reggiano cheese, for serving

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta; cook according to package.

While pasta cooks, heat a bit of olive oil (1-2 T) in a large saute pan, and cook the speck or proscuitto until it’s starting to crisp up. Remove it to a small dish, leaving behind as much of the oil as possible. In the same pan, add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, and a pinch of salt, and saute until it just begins to wilt, which will take only a minute or two. Add a bit of wine to the pan – about 1/2 cup – and cover the pan for a couple of minutes until the greens fully wilt down.

When pasta is ready, drain (reserve some cooking liquid) and add to the saute pan, with the reserved speck. Toss everything together, adding a bit of the cooking liquid if it seems too dry, along with a drizzle of oil if you want it a little richer.

Serve with cheese for topping.

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