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What makes them good for you… Orecchiette with broccoli rabe, a typical Mediterranean dish loaded with antioxidants by Novella Pranzo
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Vegetables and fruit, along with cereals are
the staples of the Mediterranean diet.
Photo Archivio Fotogramma

4 servings:

- 1 lb. orecchiette

- 1 lb. broccoli rabe tips

- 5 tablespoonsful of extra-virgin olive oil

- salt

- freshly ground black pepper

- 3 cloves of garlic

- 5 anchovy fillets

- chilli pepper

- 2 oz. grated ricotta tosta or pecorino

  (ewe’s milk cheese)


Nutrition facts per serving:


- Energy: 600 Kcal

- Protein: 18,5 g

- Fats: 25 g (saturated fatty acids: 4,5 g)

- Sugars: 80 g (soluble sugars: 12,45 g)

- Fiber: 8,5 g




      In November 2010 the Mediterranean diet won the prestigious Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity title from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Referring to as the “poor” diet it is based on the consumption of fruit and vegetables, pasta, legumes, fish, polyunsaturated fatty acids such as extra virgin olive oil as well as fresh food in general. It is also tied to the idea of local and seasonal healthy cuisine that Food Science specialists rave about for its power in cancer prevention, heart attacks, atherosclerosis.  So what’s better than a typical seasonal Mediterranean recipe such as orecchiette with broccoli rabe? It is very easy to cook and has ingredients rich in antioxidants.

      Broccoli rabe is recommended for its high content of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It contains calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, B2 and A and it is considered a natural body cleanser. Epidemiological studies have shown the cancer preventing properties of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli rabe, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.  Normally the higher the cruciferous consumption the lower the incidence of cancer, especially colon and breast. They stimulate the defense mechanisms that help the body detox itself getting rid of harmful chemical products and dangerous hormones.

      Anchovy, a common mediterranean fish, belongs to the renowned family of oily fish.  They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, protein, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus and selenium. Their omega 3 fatty acid content makes them key in brain development and protecting the heart and arteries. They are an excellent source of calcium as well as a natural supplement for osteoporosis.

      Extra virgin olive oil is a prime component of the mediterranean diet. It’s the only oil made simply of fresh pressed olives, without the aid of chemical solvents or other industrial processes used for other oils or vegetable fats. Thereby this oil preserves all of the natural substances found in olive fruits. Extra virgin olive oil contains a significant amount of powerful antioxidants, vitamin E and polyphenols while it’s low in saturated fats  which play a major role in increasing cholesterol levels in blood. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, also known as oleic acid, and contains w6 and w3 polyunsaturated fats in good ratio, keeping our body healthy.

      And let’s not forget about hot pepper, a pinch of fire that heats up every dish. It is one of the most common spices, largely used in traditional cuisines all over the world including of course Mediterranean cuisine. Unlike pepper, which is notoriously unhealthy and commonly considered an option in recipes, hot pepper has many beneficial properties. It promotes the secretion of gastric juices aiding in digestion. Additionally it has anticholesterol as well as vasodilator properties helping blood vessels to stay elastic while oxigenating the blood. It is a powerful cancer fighter due to its content of vitamin C which stregthens the immune system against tumor formations. It has decongestant and anti-inflammatory powers and consequently it can be used for relieving sore/hoarse throats, and coughs. Hot pepper helps prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular diesease. Its consistent use lowers cholesterol levels in turn strengthening arteries and the heart due to the high content of unsaturated fats contained in its seeds which also cleanse blood vessels.

      Orecchiette from Lecce, made with barley or whole wheat, is richer in fiber compared with that made of bran, and thereby more valuable from a nutritional point of view.

      All and all, this is a healthy and delicious dish, but high in calories. If you’re dieting or overweight there’s an easy way to enjoy this typical Apulian tasty dish free of guilt: halve your serving. 

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