Orecchiette alla Barese – Southern Italian Puglia Pasta Dish from the Boot!

20 Oct

Orecchiette alla Barese Recipe
Recipe by

A fun, easy, and hearty meal that my mother made quite often growing up was Orecchiette alla Barese, which is originated from the southern city of Bari within the region of Puglia (when looking at a map of Italy, Puglia is the area where the heel of the boot resides). This classic dish includes their local pasta orecchiette, which translates in English to “little ears”, mixed with rapini (broccoli rabe), sausage and garlic. I have modified this dish and incorporated white wine and Pecorino Romano to take away some of the sharpness from the rapini while preserving some tradition for one of Puglia’s finest dishes.

For my Orecchiette alla Barese, I boil the rapini for about 15 minutes with salt added prior to dilute the bitterness. I also prefer to grill/cook Italian sweet sausages separately (you can use hot for a spicier flavor) before adding to the sauce to limit the amount of grease or fat. Once those steps are completed, add finely chopped garlic and olive oil to a pan and let simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Once the garlic appears to turn a shade of brown, add the rapini and stir for 10-15 minutes at low-to-medium heat. Then add white wine and the sausages (chopped into pieces) and cover pan for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, boil the pasta and get your grated Pecorino Romano ready. Drain the orecchiette (save some of the pasta water if the sauce begins to get absorbed by the rapini) and add to the rapini sauce with a healthy helping of grated Romano – then you’re ready to be one with Puglia. More traditional recipes of this dish call for anchovy or peperoncino as I’m sure someone from that area would suggest my take on this is more Roman (shocker!). But the essence of this classic is the rapini and orecchiette, giving it that Puglia panache like an Antonio Cassano goal for his home town Bari team!

Southern wines from Puglia and Sicily have been getting a lot more recognition over the last 10 years (and it’s about time!) and one in particular, Primitivo is a Puglia based red wine that will go delightfully with the orecchiette. Now, the classic text book tradition is to have a white wine with a white pasta but this red is good enough to break that pasta segregation mentality (that’s going to be my political slogan for when I run for office). If white is your choice, try the Sicilian La Segreta, very light and a great partner for a variety of pastas. So there you have it, southern Italian pasta from the heel of the Italian boot, it’ll kick you in the junk and you’ll love every bite of it.

Orecchiette alla Barese from Paggi Pazzo

Orecchiette alla Barese Recipe

Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 30 min

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1/2 pound orecchiette
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages (or hot)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

Cooking Directions

  1. Boil rapini for 15 minutes in boiling water with salt then drain, chop and move to bowl
  2. Grill sausages (or broil) until outside is crispy and cut into slices
  3. Add olive oil to pan and add garlic at medium-to-high heat for 3-5 minutes
  4. Add rapini to pan with salt and pepper and saute for 10-15 minute at low heat, then add sausage and white wine, stir and then cover with lid
  5. In another pot, boil water and add orecchiette and cook for 12 minutes or until al dente
  6. Drain orecchiette from pot and add to pan of sausage and rapini then add Pecorino Romano (save some of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thin and add with the Pecorino, stirring with the heat on low)
  7. Ready to serve

Orecchiette alla Barese Recipe

4 out of 5
stars based on 25 ratings.

2 Responses to “Orecchiette alla Barese – Southern Italian Puglia Pasta Dish from the Boot!”

  1. Trainers November 15, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Great! thanks for the share!

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