You should make this for dinner. Tonight. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and spicy sausage is one pasta dish that we truly keep on regular rotation in our house. My children LOVE it, and I make it often when we have company over. It’s very quick and easy to make, and is usually on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Orecchiette is a small cup shaped pasta that works well in this recipe to cup and hold the flavored oil and cheese, making each bite a satisfying delight. Typically when I make this dish for my children, I omit the additional red pepper flakes. It simply makes it too spicy for my children to enjoy. However, when the sausage is cooked and combined with the additional ingredients, it looses a lot of its spiciness, making it perfectly acceptable for my heat-sensitive 5 year old to eat. Any additional heat can be added to individual dishes after its cooked. If you prefer to take out all spiciness from this dish, feel free to substitute either sweet italian or turkey sausage.
If you’ve never bought or eaten broccoli rabe (also sold as rapini) before, you will need a heads up on this one… First, broccoli rabe is sold by the bundle, meaning that it includes the leaves, stems, and buds. For this recipe you will need to do a bit of prep work to remove the buds from the rest of the bundle. If the stalks are particularly thick, you can use a vegetable peeler to thin them out a bit. Otherwise, just remove the long stems and the majority of the leaves from the surrounding bud with your hands.
Secondly, broccoli rabe has a bitter taste that can be slightly off putting unless you are used to it. However, in this recipe, the bitterness of the rapini plays off the spiciness of the sausage and the saltiness of the cheese to produce an extremely well balanced and delicious dish. If this is your first introduction to broccoli rabe, this recipe is a very safe bet for appreciating the bitter component. Note: some bunches of broccoli rabe have minimal or small buds on them. Look the bunches over carefully when purchasing to make sure that they have adequate buds.
My one and only problem with preparing this recipe is that my local grocer does not stock orecchiette. Bummer However, I usually just stock up on a few extra boxes whenever I go to Wegmans or Whole Foods. If you choose to substitute pastas, any type of small pasta such as farfalle or penne will work just fine!
- 2 bunches of broccoli rabe, stalks trimmed and quartered crosswise
- 12 oz dried orecchiette pasta
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb spicy pork sausage, casings removed
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute.
- Using a slotted spoon or small strainer, remove broccoli rabe,reserving all the cooking liquid. Set aside.
- Cook orecchiette in the same pot of salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
- Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon or potato masher, until the sausage is brown and juices form, about 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red pepper and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat.
- Add the pasta and enough of the reserved cooking liquid ¼ cup at a time, to moisten.
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and pepper into the pasta mixture.
- Transfer to the pasta bowls and serve.
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