Orecchiette, Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Believe it or not, like jalapenos, broccoli rabe is rarely seen in Nice. Which is even stranger because Nice was part of Italy for centuries. So when you come across it in a market, it’s time for the classic orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage. This comes together in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Serves 4:

Orecchiette, Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

  • 1½ pounds broccoli rabe chopped, tough stems discarded
  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, hot or mild or a mix, casings removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • ½ cup dry white wine or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)

Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot and cook for 3 minutes. Use a sieve or slotted spoon to lift the broccoli rabe from the water and place it in a colander to drain.

Bring the water back to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente, about 12 minutes, reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta.

While the pasta is cooking heat the olive oil in a large skillet (big enough to hold the pasta) over medium-high heat. Toss  the garlic in and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sausage and sauté, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. The sausage doesn’t need to be completely cooked through.

Pour in the wine and cook, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute.

Add the broccoli rabe, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through and the broccoli rabe is very tender, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, toss well, and cook over low heat until the sauce comes together, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add additional pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, if needed for moisture.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the Parmesan, lemon zest and toss. Taste and add salt, lemon juice or more cheese as needed. Serve with additional cheese and enjoy!

My verdict:

This has always been one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s so easy and delicious! Along with broccoli rabe, Italian sausage, especially hot, is another hard-to-find item. We had some from a recent trip to Ventimiglia, the first batch that I bought was killer hot (extremely rare) and the latest, pretty tame, so we added some red pepper flakes to give it a kick. The lemon zest adds a nice touch, as does a little lemon juice.






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