Italians have been making and eating orecchiette pasta ‘forever’ and the way it is made has changed very little over time. Orecchiette means ‘small ears’, a name derived from the shape. They are a bit less than an inch across, slightly dome-shaped and their centers are thinner than their rims. This characteristic gives them an interesting, variable texture, soft in the middle and somewhat chewier around the edges. A very distinctive type of pasta that originates from the Italian region of Puglia, the southeastern region that forms the high heel on the ‘boot’ of Italy.
Orecchiette require only four ingredients: hard wheat, flour, water and salt. Their particular shape, combined with the rough surface, makes it perfect for any type of sauce. Although they are best in the fresh version, dried certainly are a good second choice.
As ordinary as this meal seems, the flavor is really good and the orecchiette does a great job of cupping the sauce. For a little extra flavor, I added a few bacon slices to the turkey meatballs.
In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove, drain on paper towels, & chop finely. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bacon crumbles, seasonings, egg & breadcrumbs. Mix & form into 20 balls. Brown meatballs in bacon drippings until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Drain on paper towel.
Orecchiette, Vegetables & Sauce
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta & cook as label directs adding broccoli during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta & broccoli.
Pour off any bacon drippings from skillet, then add 3 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes & 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring 1 minute. Add the pasta, broccoli florets & meatballs. Whisk egg with reserved cooking water in a small bowl, then add to the skillet & stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt & pepper. Serve with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.