I've already revealed my affinity for curly pasta shapes. With strozzapreti, I've found the apex of my obsession. Strozzapreti literally means "priest choker." Not the type I generally keep in my company, but for these wiry hand-made noodles, I'll make an exception. They're thin at the ends, thick in the middle, and tightly curled. Even when fully cooked, they keep a deliciously chewy texture.
I like strozzapreti with tomatoes. (I like everything with tomatoes.) My usual approach to these slurpy little noodles is a take on this dish, an old-school NYT recipe. But sometimes, especially when tomatoes aren't in season, I opt for something more winter-friendly.
This pasta really couldn't get simpler. Chili flakes and sliced garlic join olive oil in a hot pan, followed by a big handful of broccoli rabe. The rabe cooks down, the pasta boils away, and when both are done, they marry in a big, deep bowl, with equal parts parmesan and pecorino romano. Maybe a little lemon zest to lighten things up. That's it.
The important thing about this dish is getting the salt level right. Too little, and it all tastes bitter. Too much, and it'll feel like you're trying to kill the nip of the rabe with salt. Start slow, and remember that the cheese adds salt, too. Also, if you can't find strozzapreti, cavatappi, gemelli, or penne will work just as well.
Strozzapreti with Broccoli Rabe
1 pound strozzapreti or penne 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste 2 garlic cloves, sliced 2 pinches chili flakes 3/4 pound broccoli rabe, washed, dried, and roughly chopped salt - start with 1 pinch 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
Boil pasta in plenty of salted water according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add garlic and chili. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant.
Add rabe all at once, along with a pinch of salt; it may be difficult to get it all in the pan at first, but it will shrink significantly as it cooks down. Cook rabe about 4 minutes, stirring intermittently, until wilted and fully cooked. Taste; you want it to still be plenty bitter, with just enough salt to take the edge off (remember, you're adding salty cheese at the end as well).
By then, pasta should be done. Drain pasta and add to pan with broccoli rabe. (If it doesn't all fit in the pan, combine both in heat-safe mixing bowl.) Add lemon zest and cheese, along with a drizzle of olive oil. Mix, plate, and serve.