Garlicky Charred Greens With Whole-Wheat Penne

Broccoli rabe (cime di rapa) can be a polarizing vegetable as it runs on the bitter side, but I find that if you counter it with a salty fat, aka cheese, and a bit of acid, then it is actually quite enjoyable. This dish is finished under the broiler to get some char on the broccoli rabe and crisp up the cheese a bit. It’s kind of hard not to fight for that top layer of crunchy broccoli rabe and melty cheese (the best part about testing this alone was that I got to eat the whole top layer).

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound dried whole wheat or farro penne
  • 1 pound, 5 ounces chopped broccoli rabe, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 4 cups) or 10 1/2 ounces chard or cavolo nero (lacinato kale), leaves removed from stems, cut into 1-inch ribbons (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano, plus more to serve
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Efficiency Moves: Cut the broccoli rabe and clean up while the pasta is cooking.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof 12-inch frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot with a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch or more of red pepper flakes, stirring constantly until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Pour the water into the frying pan, raising the heat to reach a vigorous boil, then add the pasta and more salt. The water shouldn’t taste like the sea as you’re not draining the liquid. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions, and stirring every few minutes to ensure nothing is sticking on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Keep tasting it as it gets closer to being done.

Turn on the broiler to high. Place an oven rack 6 inches from the heat source.

Stir in the broccoli rabe and then top with the grated Pecorino Romano. Here is where you’d add the little cheese nuggets (see Recipe Notes), if using. Place under the broiler until the cheese has melted and turned a light golden hue and the broccoli rabe is starting to brown, about 2–3 minutes, depending on your broiler.

Remove, top with lemon zest and more cheese, if desired.

Recipe Notes: Garlic lovers, slice the garlic thinly so that you get more in each bite.

I love cutting cubes of cheese and wiggling them into the pasta as it cooks so that they are like little surprise nuggets when I eat it. Just putting it out there. 

Leftover Notes: After reheating any leftover pasta, squeeze in some lemon juice for brightness, add a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil and top with cheese.

Recipe excerpted with permission from “Keeping It Simple by Yasmin Fahr, published by Hardie Grant Books.