This pasta is a cheap and easy twist on the classic pasta dish, spaghetti agilo e olio, which translates to garlic and oil pasta. The addition of the anchovy adds a savory, umami element. Anchovies are full of salt so you won’t need to add much additional salt to the pasta, be sure to taste it first.
Rapini, or broccoli rabe, looks like a mass of leafy greens with little sprouts resembling broccoli. If you aren’t familiar with rapini but you like arugula then you will most likely like the peppery, slightly bitter taste of this green vegetable.
I buy my rapini from my local farmer’s market where it comes with the leaves intact which I prefer for this pasta dish. I’m a big fan of pasta so when I do treat myself to a bowl or plate I try to add some vegetables to keep it more well rounded.
The lemon zest is the grated outer skin from the lemon. Use a zester or microplane to remove the zest. If you don’t have a zester use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the rind and finely chop it. The lemon breadcrumbs add just the right amount of acid and crunch to the pasta. While Meyer lemon zest has a much sweeter, less acidic flavor than regular lemons they can be swapped if needed.
While all olive oil comes from the fruit of olive trees, it’s not all created equal. Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and made from pure, cold-pressed olives, giving it more of a true olive taste. Regular olive oil is made from a blend of both cold-pressed and processed oils. I typically cook with extra-virgin olive oil when deciding between the two. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than many other oils, making it better for lower temperature cooking. Save pricey olive oils for finishing the recipe where the flavors will really shine – like in dips, for breads and salad dressing.
Don’t count out anchovies, even if you aren’t a fan; give them a try in this rapini pasta recipe anyway. You can’t necessarily taste the anchovy flavor but they provide a briny, umami flavor that rounds out the dressing. While oil-packed anchovies are traditionally used, I also like using the anchovy paste that comes in a tube – it lasts longer and can be kept in the fridge for easy use.
I always use fresh cloves of garlic, the pre-minced jars of garlic don’t taste the same. It loses a lot of the powerful garlic flavor when it’s jarred. This is because it has been soaked in water for a long period of time. Peeling garlic only takes a bit. As the garlic is sautéed the flavor mellows so it’s not very pungent but adds a base flavor.
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