Ear-shaped pasta with broccoli and mussels

Ear-shaped pasta with broccoli and mussels

Orecchiette con broccoli e cozze

Laura Edwards

This is a dish typical of the Pugliese coast, particularly the port of Bari, and any available shellfish can be used. The sauce is usually made with broccoli di rapa or cime di rapa, turnip tops. These are not generally found other than in Italy, and the easiest alternative is little broccoli florets (the calabrese type) or purple sprouting broccoli tops. The dish can be served as a starter – in small portions! – or as a very nice lunch.


Quantity Ingredient
350g dried orecchiette pasta
salt and pepper, to taste
300g tips of purple sprouting broccoli
75ml extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh hot red chilli, chopped, to taste
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1kg largish mussels, cleaned


  1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until nearly al dente (taste a piece!). After this time, add the broccoli to the pan with the pasta, and cook them together for another 5–6 minutes. Drain the pasta and broccoli.
  2. Meanwhile, heat most of the oil with the garlic and chilli (use as much or as little as you like) in a large pan for a minute or so. Then add the tomatoes, the wine and the cleaned mussels. Put the lid on and steam for about 8–10 minutes, but it very much depends on size (take a look). The mussels will soon open in the heat, releasing their delicious juices. Remove the pan from the heat and pull some of the mussels from their shells. Put the meat back in the sauce and discard the extra shells. Sauté the mussels a little to allow them to absorb the flavours, adding the remaining extra virgin olive oil. Don’t add any salt as the mussel juices are salty, and the pasta has already been salted but do taste for pepper.
  3. Put the pasta and broccoli into the sauce in the pan, and mix. A little brothy, this pasta should be served in deep plates, and can be eaten with a spoon.


  • Instead of the mussels, you could use clams, which will need a slightly shorter cooking time. You could also use gnocchetti sardi or penne instead of the orecchiette. If you can find them, red or green orecchioni would look very pretty with the mussels and broccoli. Pugliese orecchiette are made with both Italian ‘00’ flour and durum wheat semolina, which makes them very interesting in texture, requiring slightly longer cooking than other small dried pasta types. Although often handmade in Puglia, you can also find dried orecchiette in packets in good delicatessens.
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