Orecchiette with Ricotta, Walnuts, and Broccoli Rabe
Slightly simplified adaptation of Martha Rose Shulman's recipe, with technique/ingredients borrowed from my Italian-American elders (who did not come from Liguria—apologies to Liguria).
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup walnut pieces
1 T bread crumbs
1/3 cup ricotta
2 T warm water
1/4 c freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for grating on top
2 T olive oil*
1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems trimmed, washed and chopped fairly small
1 lb orecchiette
In a food processor, first chop garlic, then add walnuts and bread crumbs and process until pasty. Add ricotta, Pecorino, and 2 T warm water, and blend. Add olive oil and a pinch salt and process until smooth. Spoon into a pasta serving dish.
the pasta and rabe
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt the water. Add pasta. About five minutes before the pasta should be done (according to package instructions), add the broccoli rabe to the pot, stir, and continue to boil until pasta is al dente and rabe is tender. Ladle out up to 1/2 cup of pasta water and add to serving dish with ricotta/walnut mixture. (The rabe and pasta will hold more water than pasta alone when drained, so you shouldn't need to add more.)
Drain pasta and rabe and toss with sauce. Serve with more Pecorino and fresh black pepper.
*Shulman calls for a blend of olive and walnut oils, but I don't think I've ever had walnut oil on hand when making this recipe. I bet it's good, though.