For some reason, when I think of Cucina Povera,  I think of Abruzzo, Orecchiette and all the rustic simplicity that is associated with both.  I think of lambs and sheep, grazing high along mountain ridges and of the reliance on vegetables being mixed with pasta; so typical of Southern Italian cooking.  Recently, when I happened to have a small portion of ground lamb destined for no particular purpose, coupled with an unexpected dinner guest,  I had to find a quick way to “stretch” the planned meal of the night.  And so….  

Orecchiette d’Abruzzo

1 Pound Orecchiette pasta
3/4 pound ground lamb
1 head Broccoli Rabe
2 cups Seasoned Panko Bread Crumbs
This is a very simple recipe and it’s going to be a staple in our household because  it’s adaptable – you can easily substitute pork or beef for the lamb.  It’s very wine friendly and it’s absolutely delicious.  Plus, the kids loved it!
Chop the broccoli rabe into 2″ lengths and set aside on a cutting board.   In a pan large enough to hold the finished dish,  brown the lamb in a bit of olive oil.   Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. 

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan over medium low heat,  toast the panko crumbs in a tablespoon or two of olive oil and then set aside.   They’re done once they start browning.  Reserve to a bowl.

~ In this photo the crumbs are toasted and the meat is browning.  Note the color to the Panko ~

When the water boils, begin cooking the pasta.  When the pasta has about 2 minutes to cook before being done,  add the broccoli rabe to the pot.  This is the most critical aspect of the recipe.  Be sure the pasta is almost done before you add the broccoli rabe or the rabe will fall to pieces.  Better to err on the side of caution and have firmer broccoli rabe, than mushy pasta. 
Once the pasta is done, drain and combine with the lamb.  Stir in the bread crumbs and serve.  Shred some parmigiano over the top.  This is divine.

~ The finished dish ~

Tutti a Tavola!

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