Weekly Photo Challenge: My Dialogue with Italian Food

This week’s photo challenge inspired me to look deep into my photo archives.  Following the prompt guidelines, I searched for photos that revealed a dialogue or relationship between two photos. Then, it struck me that one of humankind’s oldest “dialogues” is with food.  So, I selected pictures which show the cause-and-effect or before-and-after relationship between the chef and the ingredients.

Not surprisingly, I choose an Italian meal–orrechiette with broccoli rabe.   It begins in the fruit and vegetable market, the Campo dei Fiori in Rome, where we can join hungry Romans in search of the freshest produce.

Fruit and vegetable market, Campo di Fiori

Fruit and vegetable market, Campo di Fiori

It continues in the kitchen, where I wash and chop the fresh broccoli rabe, which has a bolder taste than its mild-mannered cousin, broccoli.  It is slightly bitter and blends well with assertive spices like garlic and hot pepper and savory sausage. After cooking it in a pot of boiling salted water, I lift it out of the pot with a slotted spoon.

Rabe 2

Bringing the pot of water to another boil, I add the dry orrechiette pasta and cook it for about 10 minutes.  While it cooks, I heat some oil in a frying pan with some hot pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and pepper and add the broccoli rabe.

Rabe 3

When the pasta is cooked after about 10 minutes, I add it to the frying pan with the broccoli rabe mixture and give it a good stir.  When it’s heated through, I serve it in a bowl topped with fresh parmigiano cheese, a few more hot pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and some pepper.  Delicioso!  I can’t think of  better dialogue–between these fresh ingredients and my stomach.  The cheese, spices, and sauce cling to little ear-shaped pasta and deliver a burst of flavor with each bite.  In fact, “orrechiette” means “little ears” in Italian.  Adorable, no?

Broccoli Rabe 3

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe

For those of you, who would like to try this recipe at home and want exact measurements, here’s William Sonoma’s version of the dish, made with sausage.   I’ve had this dish both ways and they are equally delicious.  What’s your favorite “dialogue” with food?  Is it with chocolate?  Meat or fish?  Details, please!


Orrechiette Pasta With Broccoli Rabe

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian, by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).:

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini and cime di rapa, has a pleasantly bitter flavor that is an appealing contrast to the sweet pork sausage in the sauce. As you toss, both ingredients become trapped in the hollows of the ear-shaped pasta, making every bite wonderfully flavorful. Prepare this dish in cool-weather months, when broccoli rabe is in season.


  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain fine dried bread crumbs (Note from Patti:  This is optional!)
  • 2 Tbs. sea salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb. broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • 1 lb. dried orecchiette
  • 1/2 lb. Italian sweet fennel sausage, casings discarded and meat coarsely
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with the oil. Season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are an even, deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Pour onto a plate and let cool.Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil and add the 2 Tbs. salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, testing often, until the stems are just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a wire-mesh skimmer, lift out the broccoli rabe into a sieve and cool it quickly under cold running water. Drain and squeeze gently to remove excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package directions.Meanwhile, in the fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the 1/3 cup olive oil. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and stir to combine with the sausage. Cook until the broccoli rabe is hot throughout, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.When the pasta is ready, scoop out and reserve about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sausage mixture and the cheese and stir and toss well over low heat to combine, adjusting the consistency with some of the cooking water, if needed.Divide the pasta among warmed plates or shallow bowls, top each portion with a sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and serve immediately. Pass the remaining bread crumbs at the table. Serves 4 to 6.
Here are some other interpretations of this week’s theme!

13 replies »

  1. That is mouth watering and now I’m heading to my kitchen, guess hungry. 😉
    My tummy loves fish, deep fried with some salt and pepper that’s it, nothing more nothing less. 🙂


    • Hi Norma. You’re making me hungry too! The best deep fried fish and chips I ever had was on Bondi Beach in Australia. Wrapped in newspaper. Hot off the grill. Do you make your own or buy it?


      • That sounds awesome. I always try to make it on my own. A simple fried fish would also make me happy. Which is your favourite kind of fish or fish recipe.


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