Orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe is a rustic dinner that’s easy to make.
Those Greens-Broccoli Rabe
If you’ve never tried broccoli rabe, now is an excellent time to do so.
This green is also called “rapini” so it may be sold in your store under that name. While it looks a bit like broccoli or broccolini, it’s classified as a green. The heads look like broccoli but they do not “head.”
The leaves, stems and head are all edible. It’s used a lot in Italian cuisine too. I’ve used it as an ingredient here, but I’ve also had it sauteed in olive oil and garlic. That makes an excellent side dish and is also good if you want a light, yet filling, meatless meal.
The taste is slightly bitter, but in this dish, the slight bitterness offsets very nicely with the sweetness of the sausage and the tomatoes.
Rustic Pasta Dinner
This recipe contains a pasta shape that’s a little out of the ordinary.
Orecchiette I think means “little ears” in Italian. That’s the general shape of this pasta. Unlike shells and lots of tubular pasta shapes, orecchiette is a bit thicker and gives this meal a bit more body.
My store didn’t have this shape available in the store brand, so you’ll probably have to shell out (no pun intended) for an imported brand. The only decent substitution I can think of is gemelli. Gemelli is like a little piece of rope but the textures are essentially the same. Both have “moxie.”
Every other ingredient is coarsely chopped a bit chunky so the meal has that rustic and full-bodied look to it. To me, that is very appetizing. The sauce consists of an herby chicken stock reduction with a hint of tomato. It’s very light, but powerfully delicious.
- 12 oz orecchiette pasta (uncooked)
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- 1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage meat
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 tbs olive oil (EVOO is perfect)
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 4 large fresh basil leaves
- 4 branches fresh oregano
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini)
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- *See NOTES for substitutions*
- Blanch the broccoli rabe in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Immediately place it in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and chop very coarsely; set aside.
- Cook orecchiette per package directions—about 10 minutes. Drain but reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water.
- Coarsely chop the herbs and set aside.
- Heat a large saute pan (a chicken fryer or a skillet with deep straight sides is perfect) over medium heat. Add the oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the sausage meat and the onion. Break up the sausage meat until it’s in small pieces and brown.
- Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste has changed color from bright red to a brickish color. Add the garlic and diced tomatoes and stir.
- Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and add the chopped herbs and broccoli rabe. Stir well.
- Add the orecchiette and the shredded cheese. Stir well. Season to taste with the salt & pepper.
- If the dish looks too dry, add additional pasta water.
- Serve with extra shredded Parmesan if desired.
Use fresh herbs if possible. Parsley and basil are easy to find fresh in the produce section. If you cannot find fresh oregano, then ½-1 tsp of the dry may be substituted.