A friend of mine recently posted a beautiful photo of one of my favorite dishes – Orecchiette with Sausage and Brocolli Rabe. It reminded me that I hadn’t made it literally in YEARS. I honestly don’t know why as we almost always have the ingredients (or something similar) at home. And it got me to thinking that it’s time to put it back in rotation.
I’ve seen this with bow-tie pasta but I don’t love bow-ties. They never seem quite cooked enough in the middle and are always over done on the edges. Orecchiette (which means “little ears” in Italian) is perfect to catch the little bits of sausage, cheese and broccoli rabe so that every bite is perfect. You can use other types of pasta but something on the smaller side that the ingredients can cling to is best. I wouldn’t use a tubular pasta or a long noodle as you won’t get the same results.
Although the recipe calls for broccoli rabe, I don’t always use it. Sometimes my supermarket has it, sometimes not. Broccoli rabe (or rapini) looks a bit like broccoli but is more similar in flavor and texture to a bitter leafy green. The slight bitterness breaks up the richness of the sausage and cheese and the starchiness of the pasta. It is wonderful, but if you can’t find it, regular broccoli or broccolini works fine.
You should start the water boiling before you start heating the pan for the sausage. And you’ll use the same boiling water for your pasta as for your veg so only two pots to wash with this one! Have a nice big slotted spoon or spider strainer handy to help you out. You will be doing a lot of this simultaneously and you want the pasta to finish up about the same time the sausage mixture is done. If your timing is a little off, it’s not the end of the world. But if your timing is dead on, you will be rewarded with one of the best meals ever. Heck, you’ll still be rewarded with one of the best meals ever, but having the timing work out perfectly is always so awesome (said the mildly OCD girl).
This is a really simple meal to do on a busy weeknight (20-30 minutes y’all!) but also works for company. Served with a salad and a crisp white wine, it’s actually a pretty impressive meal.
Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
- 12 oz orecchiette
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 lb spicy Italian sausage (bulk or casings removed if using links)
- 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 C white wine (or chicken stock if you prefer)
- 1/4 t crushed red pepper (use more or less based on how spicy you like it)
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and rough chopped, tough stems discarded
- 1 C grated Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in green can, y’all!), plus a little extra for serving
- salt and pepper to taste
Bring large pot of water to boil (and start heating the oil in your other pot as well). Salt water generously. Blanch brocolli rabe in boiling water about 1-2 minutes until bright green but not totally tender. Remove from water with slotted spoon to drain. Reserve. It will finish cooking in the sauce.
Add pasta to same pot of boiling water and cook about 1-2 minutes less than the package indicates as the pasta will also continue to cook in the sauce. Reserve the cooking water! (If you time this right, you can simply use a slotted spoon to move the pasta from the boiling water to the sausage pan in the next step.)
Meanwhile, heat oil in large heavy skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Saute sausage in oil, breaking into little pieces until almost no pink remains. Stir in garlic and red pepper and continue to cook for another minute. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Cook for a minute or two until alcohol smell has diminished. Toss in reserved broccoli rabe and cook for 2-4 minutes or until desired tenderness. Stir in cheese to make a bit of a sauce, adding spoons of reserved pasta water as needed to get the desired consistency. Add pasta and toss until well combined. If not saucy enough, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle with a bit of extra parmesan and serve.
Serves four to six.