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Chef Anne Burrell’s Broccoli Rabe Pesto & A Food Gal Giveaway

She has a spiky platinum ‘do and a wild persona to match.

But Chef Anne Burrell also has cooking chops as vast as her outsized personality. After all, this is a woman who’s cooked at Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia in New York, Peter Hoffman’s Savoy in New York and was executive chef at Centro Vinoteca in New York. She’s also battled alongside Mario Batali on “Iron Chef America,” and now hosts her own Food Network show, “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.”

Her new cookbook, “Cook Like a Rock Star” (Clarkson Potter) with food writer Suzanne Lenzer, is all about getting food on the table without any drama. The book,  of which I recently received a review copy, is full of 125 enticing recipes such as rack of lamb crusted with black olives, “Cheater’s Duck Confit and Bitter Greens,” and “Juicy, Jammy, Jelly Tart.”

The book is also a hoot, as Burrell’s breezy, no-nonsense voice comes through in all the recipes, such as this one for “Rockin’ Porchetta,” in which she instructs, “Remove the pork from the oven, cut off the twine (you don’t want to floss and eat at the same time), and remove the pork skin — it will probably come off in one large, lovely crispy piece like a helmut!”

Or in the book’s promotional materials, in which she explains her approach to simplifying things in her cookbook as compared to other books that might “tell you to brown a piece of meat and then deglaze the ‘fond.’ But what the hell is ‘fond’? It’s the crud on the bottom of the pan—the flavor, the stuff you want to scrape up and use to develop your rich brown food! By ditching the fancier cooking terms and speaking in plain English, I’m going to help you to understand why you brown the crap out of things (because brown food tastes good), and how to get the crud off the bottom of the pan (deglazing).”

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at her twist on the usual basil pesto: “Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage.”

Her version is much richer and more substantial, as broccoli rabe is pureed with pistachios, Parmigiano and mascarpone to make a thick pesto that gets mixed with the cute ear-shaped pasta and crumbled Italian sausage.

This pesto has a pleasant bitter edge and a real luxuriousness because of the addition of the creamy, slightly sweet Italian cheese.

This dish cooks up about half an hour, too.

The only omission in the recipe is that the directions call for mixing 2/3 of the pesto into the hot, drained pasta, but never says what to do with the remainder of it. But you could easily refrigerate the leftover pesto and slather it on grilled bread the next night for delicious crostini.

You can meet Burrell when she does a book signing at 5 p.m. Oct. 14 at Williams-Sonoma at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. Books to be signed must be purchased at Williams-Sonoma. The following day, Burrell will host a cooking demo and book-signing 1:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at Sur La Table at Santana Row in San Jose.

Contest: Three lucky Food Gal readers will each receive a free copy of Anne Burrell’s “Cook Like a Rock Star” cookbook. Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Oct. 8. The winner will be announced Oct. 10.

How to win?

Tell me which rock star or singer you’d most want to be — and why.

Here’s my own answer to that question:

“Shakira. She’s got that gorgeous mane of hair. And who wouldn’t want to be able to shake their hips like there’s no tomorrow?”

Winner of the Previous Contest: In last week’s Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me what you don’t feel dressed without. The winner will receive samples of four newly revamped Girard’s salad dressings.

Congrats to:

Guidolicious, who wrote, “My sexy red toenail polish. I have pretty feet so I pamper them regularly. Pedicures are my one consistent splurge. I certainly would never put on sandals without polished nails!”

Orecchietti with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage

(Serves 4 to 6)

For the pesto:

Kosher salt

2 bunches of broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed, coarsely chopped into 1-inch lengths

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup mascarpone

For the pasta:

Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, casings removed

1 pound orecchiette

Big fat finishing oil (a good extra virgin olive oil)

Freshly grated Parmigiano

For the pesto: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Drop the rabe into the water, give it a swish, and remove it immediately, saving the water to cook your pasta in later.

Reserve a cup of the rabe. Toss the rest in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add pistachios and Parm and puree until smooth. If it seems dry, drizzle in a little olive oil while the machine is running. Add mascarpone and pulse until combined; taste for seasoning. It should be slightly bitter, nutty and creamy at the same time. Reserve.

For the pasta: Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add sausage, using a spoon to break it up, and cook until brown and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes.

Bring your broccoli rabe water back to a boil and toss in the pasta, cooking for 1 minute less than the package recommends. Drain pasta and add it, along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water, the reserved rabe, and two-thirds of the pesto, to the pan with the sausage. Stir to combine and cook until the water evaporates and the pesto is clinging to the pasta. Remove from heat, drizzle with some big fat finishing oil, sprinkle with more Parm, and stir vigorously to combine. Drizzle among bowls and serve immediately.

From “Cook Like a Rock Star” by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer

More Pasta Love: Spaghettini with Tuna and V8 Sauce

And: Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil

And: Campanile Tuna Noodle Casserole

And: Macaroni and Cheese with Aged Sharp White Cheddar

And: Perbacco’s 5-Hour Pork Sugo

And: Heston Blumenthal’s New-Style Ragu alla Bolognese