Every time Edward comes back from a trip to Italy he has at least one new recipe that he’s all excited about. Part of his circuit includes a stay at the apartment he shares with my sister Lisa in San Benedetto del Tronto, a middle class beach resort on the Adriatic, at the end of the old Via Salaria. Dad’s people come from the hill towns further inland: quiet, stony Offida, famous for its lace makers, the farming communities of Monsampolo, Monteprandone, and Centobuchi, named 100 holes because once upon a time, the locals sold salt from ditches beside the Via Salaria. (I wrote about the region, Le Marche, in Saveur many years ago.) They love going to Ondamarina on the beach: a fantastic fish restaurant where I first tasted what the locals called Sorbetto, but was actually lemon sorbet combined with Asti spumante and/or vodka and drunk from a small, frosty glass after lunch (the recipe is in The Kitchen Ecosystem, though I am sure you can figure it out). This time, it was pasta in broccoli rabe pesto, garnished with a variety of shellfish: razor clams, tiny vongele, and little shrimps with the heads on.
Usually Edward tests a recipe and then I try it again but this time we both plunged in. I made a straight pesto and tossed the cooked pasta in it. Ed made a very loose pesto and finished cooking partially boiled pasta in it. I tried it with cheese and don’t recommend it: The pesto is intense but delicate and I found the Parmesan too assertive and salty. I haven’t tried Ed’s version yet, but the one I did, below, is divine.
Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Clams
2 bunches rabe with lots of flowers
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small dried hot pepper, or a pinch of hot pepper flakes
1/3 cup pinoli nuts
¾ pound of penne, farfale, or other small cut pasta
1 ½ cups clams with their broth, cut into small bite-sized pieces
To prepare the rabe, cut off the tough stems or peel them. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over a high heat. Add the rabe and as soon as the water comes back to a boil, drain it. Retain 1 – 2 cups of the blanching water.
In a large skillet heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium high heat. Add the garlic and hot pepper. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle but before it begins to turn golden, add the rabe. Stir to combine the garlic with the vegetables. Add ½ cup of blanching stock, cover, and lower the heat to medium, Cook the rabe for about 10 minutes, until it is very tender.
Select out all the flowers as set aside. Remove the hot pepper and discard. Add the remaining stems and leaves to a food processor along with ½ cup of the blanching water, the pinoli nuts, and salt to taste. Pulse to a smooth puree. Add more blanch water if necessary. The consistency should be like to heavy cream.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over a high heat and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, and then drain.
In the meantime, turn on the heat under the skillet that still has the rabe flowers in it to medium. As soon as the pan is hot add the clams and their broth. Cook briefly, until the clams become opaque.
In a large serving bowl toss together the hot pasta and rabe pesto. Adjust the seasoning. Garnish with the rabe flowers and clams.