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Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

February 27, 2007

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

My kitchen quieted down a lot toward the end of last week, for various reasons. I spent way too much time out of the house, eating bad fried foods at the pub, and re-heating leftovers out of extreme laziness. But this week I have some fun food projects planned, so another weeklong absence will not have to be endured by my faithful readers (ha!).

I bought this broccoli rabe over a week ago, and I was a bit afraid that it had gone bad. There was an air of old greens smell coming from the bag, but I took a chance, and rinsed it all off to see what could be salvaged. Turned out, almost all of it. I’d never cooked broccoli rabe before, and in fact, had never even seen it. The handy dandy interwebs, unfortunately, didn’t help much as I tried to figure out how, exactly, one preps broccoli rabe. Everything I read said to trim the stems and quarter it. Quarter it? It’s mostly leaves! How do you quarter leaves? What?! I ended up just chopping it into roughly two-inch pieces, and I think it turned out just fine.

This is one of those simple, classic Italian pasta dishes that I’ve been seeing everywhere lately, and for good reason. It was quick, and the minimal number of ingredients really ensures that the flavors can stand out. It was a good choice for a first broccoli rabe cooking experiment, because there was sausage to save the dish, if I hated it, but I could also actually taste the broccoli rabe enough to realize that I don’t hate it at all.

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

  • 3 c. orecchiette pasta (this is one of my all-time favorite pasta shapes)
  • about 3 c. chopped broccoli rabe, or 10 to 15 stalks. Trim the last 1/4 inch of the stems, and roughly chop the rest. You can include the thick stems after you trim the bottom off; they are nice and crunchy
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 links of spicy Italian pork sausage (you could use turkey or something, too, as long as it’s spicy)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • about 1/4 c. parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and blanch the broccoli rabe, cooking for about a minute, until it’s slightly wilted and the stalks are crisp.

broccoli rabe

(This picture if of uncooked broccoli rabe; it should be more wilted than this once you’ve blanched it.) 

Remove the broccoli rabe from the water with a slotted spoon, and strain in a colander. Bring the water back to a boil, and add the orecchiette, cooking for about eight minutes, or until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and add the sausage, removed from its casings. Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage, and cook until it’s browned, and you have a bit of sausagey oily liquid in the pan. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, and saute it all together for about 30 seconds. Then add the broccoli rabe to the same skillet, and toss it together to coat the broccoli rabe with sausage spicy oil.

Ideally, the sausage-broccoli rabe mixture and the pasta will be done at the same time. Add the orecchiette and a bit of the pasta-cooking water (a few tablespoons should do it) to the sausage-broccoli rabe mixture, along with the parmesan, and a bit of salt and pepper, and toss it all together. The pasta water and parmesan should kind of bind together with the oil to create a pseudo-sauce, and coat the pasta pretty well.

Orecchiette in the pan

According to Giada (from whence this recipe is adapted), this dish is great for parties and buffets, because it is equally tasty at room temperature. I did taste a bit as I was storing leftovers, and she’s quite right.

This is such a simple dinner, and the flavors all blend together perfectly–it’s no surprise to me that it’s an Italian staple at the dinner table. Of course, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with sausage…

I’ve been dreaming about baking bread, so there will be some interesting bread stuffs coming up this week, I suspect. Over the weekend I attempted risotto cakes, which I still want to write about here. And I also made a phenomenal soup from a dried mix–more soup in a bag, yes, but such excellent soup in a bag that I have to share, and potentially attempt to recreate it without dehydrated vegetables! Come back soon…the kitchen will definitely not be quiet this week!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. dennis permalink
    July 6, 2010 6:49 am

    While your implementation may taste better, I prefer it with substantially more rabe and less orecchiette to make it a bit more healthy. I also prefer using cayenne pepper to heat it rather than pepper flakes to avoid biting into the flakes.

    I also blanch the rabe FIRST, and then cut it up before adding it to the sausage. Its also important to either put the rabe into ice water or run cold water over it after draining it, otherwise it could continue to cook too much while your waiting for the pasta to cook.

    Overdone rabe is bad. Very bad.

    • July 6, 2010 8:35 am

      Thanks for the suggestions! I haven’t made this since I posted this, but you’re right: blanching the rabe and then chilling it is probably key.

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