Southern Italy’s list of enduring products is legion: ricotta, orecchiette, bottarga, Versace. And right around now is the best time to appreciate another: broccoli spigorello. A recent New York transplant, it’s an intriguing relative of prosaic broccoli, less bitter than rapini (aka rabe) and less acidic than broccoli’s florets, with a subtle sweetness induced by autumn’s crisp weather. Spigorello has florets, too, but the star is its hefty leaves with their kale-like taste and texture.
Blanched, then sautéed with garlic and chili flakes, sliced in chiffonade for pasta, or left whole for soups (you can use the inedible woody stems for stock), spigorello also is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, particularly A and C. But don’t mention that to your kids, who, multiple sources say, will scarf the thing down (mine will confirm it).
No convincing is necessary at Tarry Lodge (18 Mill St, Port Chester 914-939-3111; tarrylodge.com), either. Chef Andy Nusser has been a spigorello fan since his early days in 1980s California, where he discovered it at Santa Barbara’s farmers’ markets. These days he prowls our own, where the vegetable is often available from growers like Honey Locust Farm House. At his restaurant, spigorello shines in salads, pizzas and especially in pastas. A bucatini dish is a current crush. “I like it with roasted pumpkin and pancetta,” he says. “The sweet pumpkin and salty pancetta balance so well with the bitter greens.” That said, he finds spigorello “less bitter and more palatable than rapini. It’s leafier, less crunchy, and more delicate.”
Go savor it along with the wealth of other Southern Italian treasures at Tarry Lodge and, occasionally, at other hotspots like Dobbs Ferry’s The Cookery and Harper’s. Sporting an appetite is mandatory; sporting Versace, optional.
Bucatini with Broccoli Spigorello and Pecorino
(Courtesy of Andy Nusser, Tarry Lodge)
1 lb bucatini or other pasta
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ lb pancetta, diced small (bacon may be substituted, or omit for meatless)
1 medium red onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch chili flakes (optional)
1 bunch (about 1 lb) broccoli spigorello, leaves thinly sliced
¼ lb pecorino cheese, grated
¼ lb bread crumbs, toasted (optional)
In large pot, boil 6 quarts salted water. Add bucatini and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a half-cup of pasta water. In large sauté pan over medium-high flame, heat olive oil, then cook pancetta until fat is rendered and meat is crispy. Add onion, garlic, and chili flakes to rendered pancetta and cook until golden. Add spigorello and stir to combine ingredients. Add a quarter-cup of reserved pasta water to pan to wilt greens and incorporate into sauce. Stir pasta into sauce, adding more pasta water if needed.
Ladle into bowls, topping each serving with toasted breadcrumbs and grated pecorino.