Orecchiette pasta with turnip tops

Orecchiette con le cime di rapa from Puglia

I was on the telephone to my Gran the other day talking about the availability of certain ingredients in the UK and in Italy, and she was reminiscing about certain foods that were available in wartime Britain but which have now all but disappeared from the market place. One of these was “turnip tops”. I was surprised to hear that she had been unable to find them, and told her that pasta with turnip tops is a traditional and very well known dish in Southern Italy and in particular the Puglia (Apulia) region.

So, in honour of my gran’s wartime memories and of course delicious Italian food I give you Oreccchiette con cime di rapa!

pasta with turnip tops
The red chilli is not just there for show – ideally this dish should be quite spicy

Notice the chilli? For those of you who have never eaten turnip tips before the flavour is quite strong – reminiscent of broccoli. For this reason it tends to be combined with other strong flavours such as spicy chilli and salty pecorino cheese, and is usually accompanied by a glass of a full bodied red. Any full bodied red will do, but since this dish is from Puglia, I would suggest a good Primitivo.

You will need (serves 4):

800g of trimmed turnip tops
400g dried orecchiette pasta
1 hot red chilli (fresh)
8 fillets of anchovy (salted)
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Grated pecorino cheese to serve

1. Chop the greens and wash the leaves under running water. Leave to drain.

2. Chop up the chilli, garlic and anchovy fillets. Mix and put to one side.

3. Place a large pot of water on the hob and bring to the boil. Salt and add the turnip tops.

cime di rapa
I could have done with a bigger pot here…

4. Place  the oil in a pan and brown the garlic, chilli and anchovies over a low flame.

5. When the garlic has coloured and the anchovy fillets have all but melted drain the leaves, making sure you keep the water they were cooked in, and add to the frying pan. Stir well so that the now flavoured oil coats the greens and cook for a few more minutes.

6. Cook the pasta in the water used to boil the greens. Drain, as always, al dente.

7. Place everything in one pan and mix well.

8. Serve with a sprinkling of pecorino and a glass of red wine if desired.

I am going to have to ask my gran for some wartime recipes with turnip tops and the next time she comes over I hope they are in season so I can make this for her.

With love, from Italy

6 Comments Add yours

    1. Why thank you dear 🙂

  1. This is really interesting. Never thought of cooking with turnip tops before. It’s brilliant 🙂

    1. Neither had I until I visited Puglia to be honest! Really tasty though.

  2. petit4chocolatier says:

    Looks delicious! My grandmother would make turnips all the time! Good memories here : )

    1. It does seem to make people nostalgic! Mashed neeps (trunips) and tatties (potatoes) with haggis is more likely to take me down memoey lane of course – can you tell I’m a Scot?!? Lol


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