Everyday pasta dough [see recipe] cut into strips of dough, 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide
1/2 pound ciccioli (fresh pork belly, often sold as fresh "panchetta") *
2 bunches rapini
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tablespoon red chillies
*Ciccioli are chopped up pieces of fresh unsalted pork belly, the meat is generally sold as panchetta in Italian butcher shops -- but Not the cured panchetta that is readily available and sold rolled up and ready to eat; "ciccioli" are made with "fresh" panchetta -- this meat is generally only available in Italian butcher shops in the wintertime (Apparently few Italians ask for it in the summertime, so it is rarely up for sale), what is often sold as fresh pork belly in large North American supermarkets is not good enough as it is generally pre-salted and its taste is rather despicable.
Cook the rapini in a large pot of water and then drain.
Boil a large pot of water and start cooking the pasta when the sauce in is almost ready.
Cut fresh pork belly slices (fresh panchetta) into 1 inch pieces.
Fry them for a few minutes or until most of the fat is rendered.
Add the chopped garlic and fry till golden.
Add the drained and cooked rapini.
Season with chillies, salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta and drain.
Toss the pasta with the sauce.
Prior to World War II tagliatelle with rapini and fresh pork belly was considered everyday country fare. Obviously it was only done when rapini were in season. Surprisingly, the season for rapini in Molise was very very long. According to my aunt, Zia Rosina, rapini could almost be had year round -- not because it was brought in from other countries (No way!) but because the vegetable was so hardy, it could survive almost anything. Apparently, rapini was unharmed by the snow. So home cooks could go out to their fields in mid-December and pick fresh rapini for that night's supper. Nonetheless, vegetable-based dishes, including those made with rapini, were considered poor people's food. So unless they were jazzed up with some kind of meat, the dishes were dismissed as not being fit for human consumption. Even though most people loved "tagliatelle con rapini," especially when "ciccicoli" were added for additional flavor, few would admit to it. "Ciccicoli" were also thought of as poor people's food. Nowadays, the dish is offered in better Italian restaurants and is not cheap. So, of course, people can rave about it all they like. However, I believe that home-made tagliatelle is needed to make this a memorable dish.... Photo: Mary Melfi.