Orecchiette are the signature pasta shape of Puglia in the south of Italy, with many versions still made at home. These pasta are somewhat round, with a concavity that makes the center thinner than the edges and leads to their namesake resemblance: Orecchiette means “little ears.” Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe is so associated with the region that its name in Italian is “Orecchiette alla Pugliese.” Cooking the pasta with the broccoli rabe gives the pasta a unique color and flavor. Don’t be afraid of the anchovy filets—you can even add another one if you wish—as they are an essential ingredient for the dish and—we promise—are not overwhelming in the final product.
Clean the broccoli rabe by removing the hardest and thickest stems and the larger leaves (you can keep the flowers). Break the greens into pieces and wash well.
Boil the orecchiette in 8 quarts of salted water for 6 minutes.
Then add the broccoli rabe into the boiling pasta for 6 more minutes before draining.
In a frying pan or skillet, heat the olive oil and add the peeled and chopped garlic. Let the garlic soften a little and then add the sliced hot cherry pepper (if you are using it) and the anchovies and stir until the anchovies melt. Keep the heat low so nothing burns.