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LivingFood and DrinkSpicy Baked Pasta with Cheddar and Broccoli Rabe

Spicy Baked Pasta with Cheddar and Broccoli Rabe

by Susan Hanna

I don’t know about you, but recent events have me yearning for comfort food and this baked pasta dish from Alison Roman in a recent issue of Bon Appetit fits the bill. While the pasta cooks, cook leeks and then add red pepper flakes and chopped broccoli rabe. Combine the cooked pasta with the leek-broccoli rabe mixture, then add cream, cheese, chives and some of the pasta cooking water. Put the mixture into a baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and cheese and bake for about 35 minutes. Delicious!

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Make sure the cheddar does not contain colour and the red pepper flakes do not contain colour. I used 4C brand of panko for the topping. For more recipes using all-natural ingredients, visit Eye For a Recipe.


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. (454 g) rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli
  • 8 Tbsp. (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced into half-moons
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) – or more – crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe or 3 bunches baby broccolini, trimmed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 12 oz. (340 g) sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups/750 ml), divided
  • 1 cup (250 ml) chopped chives, divided
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coarse fresh breadcrumbs or panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F (218° C). Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together, until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup (250 ml) pasta cooking liquid.
  2. While you are cooking the pasta, get the broccoli rabe going. Heat 5 Tbsp. (75 ml) oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium–high. Add leeks and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened (but not so much that they don’t have any texture left) and starting to brown, 8–10 minutes.
  3. Add red pepper flakes to leeks and stir to incorporate. Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more. Season with salt and black pepper. Once all of the broccoli rabe has been added, cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
  4. Add pasta to reserved broccoli rabe mixture along with cream, three-quarters of the cheese, ½ cup (125 ml) chives, and reserved pasta cooking liquid; mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and add more red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat (keep in mind that the saltiness and spiciness will increase as the pasta bakes).
  5. Transfer pasta to a 3-qt. (2.8 L) baking dish (or, if your Dutch oven is ovenproof, just leave it in there). Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) oil in a medium bowl until coated; season with salt and black pepper. Scatter over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Bake until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  6. Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving. Serves 6-8.

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