Pasta with broccoli rabe was a staple in my house growing up – and we always ate it the same way – boiled with spaghetti and then tossed in a generous amount of olive oil. When I first started going to local Italian eateries with friends (believe me, we never stepped foot in an Italian restaurant growing up unless we were attending a party), I noticed that this dish was always on the menu. Though its not quite a traditional dish, there is no denying its a delicious one. Broccoli rabe and sweet Italian sausage are two ingredients that just work so well together.
Like all of my favorite dishes, this one has few ingredients – just four, if you don’t count the salt. The double cooking of the broccoli rabe really allows the flavors to marry one another and creates the creamiest sauce.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and dried
- 1 lb orecchiette pasta*
- 12 oz sweet Italian Sausage meat, or 12 oz sausages with the casing removed (about 4 links)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt for the pasta water
- Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil on high heat. Salt the water generously – about a tablespoon of salt for a large pasta pot.
- Set your washed and dried broccoli rabe onto a cutting board, and chop the leaves into 2-3 inch pieces. Discard the tough ends of the stems.
- When the water is boiling, add your pasta and broccoli rabe to the pot simultaneously. Reduce the heat to medium-high. You’ll want to slightly undercook the pasta, so cook for about 7-9 minutes, until the orecchiette is al dente.*
- Meanwhile, set a large saucepan over medium heat. Heat the pan first, and then add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Heat the oil – it will be ready when the oil has thinned and swirls easily about the pan when tipped, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking up any pieces into crumbles as it cooks. Cook the sausage just until any traces of pink have disappeared, about 5 minutes.
- When the pasta is ready, remove the pasta and broccoli rabe from the pot with a fine mesh sieve and transfer it to the pan with the sausage. Add about 1/2 cup of pasta water into the pan as well, and turn the heat to a low setting. Toss the pasta until the water has thickened into a sauce. It will take on the green hue from the broccoli rabe. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to incorporate into the pasta and serve.
You can use any pasta type you like for this recipe. The cook time for orecchiette is 9-11 minutes, and so we just undercook it (for 7-9 minutes) before transferring it to the sausage. If you choose to use a different type of pasta for this recipe, be sure to adjust accordingly.