Pasta, Pizza, Risotto

Orecchiette with Rapini and Roasted Squash

Loreto December 27, 2016

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Orecchiette with Rapini and Roasted Squash, this is a dish packed with flavor from the sweetness of the squash to the subtle bitterness of the rapini, hosting wonderful textures and various dimensions of ingredient infusion.

Orecchiette with rapini and Roasted Squash

Orecchiette with Rapini and Roasted Squash, a pasta coming to us from the southern part of Italy with its unique shape that hosts a duality of texture from the soft inside to the al dente edges. Pair that with some squash roasted and caramelized, and some wonderful sauteed rapini with its leafy earthy flavors and we have a winner!


Orecchiette is one of those pastas that you will never forget. Shaped like a little ear and that is what orecchiette translates to in English just that, “little ear”. This pasta comes to us from the southeastern region of Italy. One would say it is the part of the heel known as Puglia.

Making them would take experience and patience that only a Nonna would know. For me there are so many memories of pasta making in my childhood. I cherish those days hearing my nonna and mom and dad talking up a storm sometimes in a heated passionate flurry and others times melodic and transposed in operatic song. I could hear the table squeaking as they were working the dough and flour was dusting the air. I would sit at a corner of the table with my chin on the wood board my father specially made for these occasions and study hand gestures, facial expressions and most of all the way they spoke. My parents grew up south east of Rome and at that time there where many dialects to the Italian language. My parents spoke an old tongue that today is slowly dissipating into the echoes of time, but one that I like to mimic from time to time.

Thanks to many wonderful pasta manufacturers, we are blessed to have these products available to us. Does it meet up with the truly authentic pastas found in those country sides of Italy, I would have to say no. There is something in the air of Italy that makes everything look better, taste better, and feel better. Maybe its the abundance of sunshine, or that volcanic soil, or the passionate people that exude pride for what their land provides, and speak with such vigor and lust for food that only leaves you wanting and passionate too! That being said, sometimes we are lucky and find some hidden gems in the Italian market.

Orecchiette with rapini and Roasted Squash

This recipe was inspired by one found in Food Network magazine October 2016, Cook like a Star edition. Chef Anne Burrell created a recipe using Orecchiette with Pancetta, pumpkin and broccoli rabe. I loved the colors: orange from the pumpkin, deep green from the broccoli rabe and those wonderful little ears of pasta. I just had to try making this dish, and of course adding mine and Nicoletta’s little twist to it.

A trip to the Italian Centre Shop was warranted, plus we always love the buzz of that place from the deli to the cafe where elders have heated discussions about politics and soccer. We had a squash from The Old Strathcona Farmers Market, another place we love frequenting. So all we need  is the pasta orecchiette which we found multi colored, that will add beautiful colors, olive oil. We could not find broccoli rabe but this broccoletti, or rapini, will work just fine.

Let’s get to cooking this Orecchiette with Rapini and Roasted Squash!

The squash is nicely seasoned and roasted to bring out and intensify the flavors. The rapini blanched in boiling salted water to tenderize the stems, then sauteed with the lardo and roasted squash adding and infusing yet another level of texture and taste  to the mix. Lardo is something similar to pancetta but more fatty and aromatic due to the herb crust and salt it is cured in. It comes from the region of Tuscany, a town called Colonnata. The orecchiette cooked just a few minutes  prior to being al dente as we will finish the cooking in the pan. Some nice olive oil in a pan and in goes the lardo, roasted squash and rapini. The orecchiette are added and tossed a bit and this dish is ready to plate.

The flavors of this dish are amazing, We have the orecchiette soft in the middle with that nice toothy bite on the edges. The roasted squash sweet fragrant and caramelized, mingling with the rapini and its juicy, earthy leafy taste, all brought together by that amazing pungent, herby, salt cure of the lardo and olive oil. To finish hits of aged parmigiano in all its glory and surprise crunches from the toasted pumpkin seeds.  All in all a great dish to add to those always welcome pasta nights, well in our household anyway, lol.

Buon Appetito!

Song of the day: “World of Love” by Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.


Orecchiette with Rapini and Roasted Squash

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes


  • 2 cups orecchiette
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced and peeled carnival squash
  • 1 bundle rapini
  • 1/4 cup of lardo (or pancetta) minced
  • Pinch of chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds toasted
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano



  1. Cut squash in half, then into wedges. Next dice wedges into bite size pieces.
  2. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, clove of garlic.
  3. Place on a parchment line baking sheet.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven at 375° F till squash can be pierced with a fork.
  5. Take out of oven and set aside.


  1. Clean and cut lower section of stem.
  2. Place rapini in a pot of boiling salted water and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Drain and set aside.


  1. In another bot of boiling salted water add orecchiette and cook to a few minutes before suggested cook time.
  2. Drain.

Final steps:

  1. In a medium saute pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and chili flakes, and heat to a medium to high setting.
  2. Toss in lardo and render till slightly translucent.
  3. Toss in the rapini and saute for about a minute.
  4. Add in squash and again stir and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Throw in orecchiette and toss in pan making sure to blend all ingredients well.
  6. Finish with a nice drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of parmigiano, and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds and we are ready to eat!
  7. Enjoy!


To make this dish vegetarian just skip the lardo (or pancetta).


  • Serving Size: 4 servings
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Orecchiette with rapini and Roasted Squash

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  • Avatar
    Reply Demeter | Beaming Baker December 28, 2016 at 7:12 am

    What a beautiful picture you painted of your nonna and mom and dad making pasta! I almost feel like I’m right there. 🙂 I can almost imagine all the hand gestures and the passionate discussions they had! Love that you infused this pasta dish with story and meaning from your family. That makes it extra delicious. 🙂 Wishing you and Nicoletta a wonderful, warm and fun holiday! Happy New Year’s! Pinned. 🙂

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 28, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Thank you Demeter for your lovely words. It is hard to know if your on the right track when describing those moments in time so I just surrender to the pictures in my mind and write without judgement. Thanks for the affirmation that we are on the right track. That is the beauty of food, it not only has eye appeal and wonderful taste, it also invokes hopefully wonderful memories and emotion that is also infused into the food. Miss those days as a child watching all that organized chaos.
      Have a wonderful week Demeter and Nicoletta and I wish you a most exciting, abundant, joyful year.
      Happy New Year!

  • Avatar
    Reply Hilary Smith December 28, 2016 at 11:38 am

    We are a family of squash eaters, so it’s always fun to find new, beautiful ways to enjoy it! Love these photos and the extra care you take to explain some less familiar ingredients. Happy Holidays!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 28, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Thank you very much Hilary! There are so many great ingredients out there and its so wonderful to be able to discover them and be creative. This dish is an exemplification of that, creativity and a lot of passion for what we do and who we are.If you are a squash lover then you are going to absolutely love the flavor combinations in this recipe.
      Happy cooking!

  • Avatar
    Reply Agness Walewinder December 28, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    I love the way this dish is presented, you are a real cooking star! I’m a big fan of squash so let me use this recipe next time when cooking a dinner for my friends :).

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 29, 2016 at 7:27 am

      Thank you Agness, I love cooking and being creative. I guess when you do what you love it truly shines. The photography is done by my lovely wife, she is I believe quite talented. I am happy that you want to use this dish, look forward to hearing how you made out and peoples reaction to it.
      Happy Cooking!

  • Avatar
    Reply Hilary December 29, 2016 at 6:43 am

    What a lovely dish! I really like the mix of textures and flavours going on here. Do you think lardo is like “les lardons” in French cooking (thick-cut bacon)?

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 29, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Hi Hillary, I think Les Lardons is probably close to lardo. Lardo is salt cured with a layer of herbs on top to flavor the fat. I would say that lardo is about 80 percent fat and is only found in Colonnata, Tuscany. Having said this I truly believe you could use the les lardons, the flavor will subtly infuse the ingredients. I will have to see if I could find it here, I am curious. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Have a grand day!

  • Avatar
    Reply Justine @ December 29, 2016 at 10:58 am

    What a beautiful story and an even more beautiful dish! I think it’s so important to keep traditions alive in our modern society and it’s always fun to put your own spin on a traditional dish or ingredient. Thank you for sharing this with us! Wishing you and Nicoletta a happy new year and all the best in 2017!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 29, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you Justine, for your beautiful words and I agree totally with keeping traditions alive, and those times especially for Nicoletta and I are so vivid and important to who we are today. The fun part is evolution is creativity, and delicious recipes. Oh what fun that is!
      Here’s to innovation and creativity and those of us who get to enjoy and share that with others.
      AS most Happy New Year to you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Karen (Back Road Journal) January 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

    So different from my usual orecchiette and broccoli rabe. Love the combination of flavors and textures.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto January 2, 2017 at 3:46 am

      Tank you Karen. I love all the culinary magazines, there are so many inspirations to work from and this is one of those moments. I love pasta and this recipe was not short on flavor. It will grace our table again and again.
      Have a wonderful 2017!

  • Avatar
    Reply Sasha @ Eat Love Eat January 7, 2017 at 10:18 am

    This looks and sounds wonderful! I love orecchiette, it’s one of my favourite pasta shapes! I would love to eat authentic Italian orecchiette in Puglia even more!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto January 8, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you Sasha, yes eating orecchiette in Puglia would be preferable, but if you can’t go to Puglia, bring Puglia to where ever you are. People sometimes think pasta is pasta it all tastes the same, but I believe that each shape has a unique taste and paired with the appropriate sauce or accompaniment makes all the difference. As any Italian would say don’t reinvent the wheel. The orrecchiette was the perfect pasta for this combination.
      Have a wonderful day!

  • Avatar
    Reply Anne Murphy January 8, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    What a perfect combination! The sweet squash, with the slightly bitter greens, balanced by the pasta! Sounds wonderful!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto January 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      Thank you Anne, some people find the rapini bitter but so true combining it with the roasted squash and the pasta balances sweet, starchy, and bitter creating a pasta dish I am really proud of, and one that will grace our table again and again!
      Have a wonderful night.

  • Avatar
    Reply mikaela | wyldflour January 9, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Love the flavors in this!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto January 9, 2017 at 6:50 am

      Thank you! It was inspired by food network magazine. Love those foodie magazines, thank god for moderation or we would be in big trouble.

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