Often seen on Italian restaurant menus, Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, is an earthy and spicy dish with an interesting combination of ingredients.
(For a delicious vegetarian version, omit the sausage!) The Broccoli Rabe, readily available usually fall through winter and not really a broccoli at all, is a slightly bitter green packed with vitamins, iron, and calcium. I like to use a combination of hot and sweet (mild) Italian sausage in this dish that is partnered with the little pasta called Orecchiette or “little ears”. They even look like ears! Everything combines to work in this recipe: the spicy sausage, the almost bitter greens, the smaller pasta which collects the oil in its little saucer shape, and the buttery flavor. It is an incredibly rich and flavorful dish and is a favorite of my husband, Tom. I know when paired with a Sangiovese grape, Tuscan in origin, perhaps a Brunello di Montalcino or a Montepulciano, I know you will enjoy it as well!
1 lb. Orecchiette Pasta
1 Large bunch Broccoli Rabe -Rinsed and drained –Then cut about an inch off the bottom of stalks and discard; Cut the remaining stalks and leaves into two inch pieces, removing any discolored leaves.
¼ c. oil (Add more oil if needed when cooking the greens)
5 links sausage: 3 hot and 2 mild or sweet in pieces, casings removed
4 cloves garlic chopped very finely
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp butter
A word on preparing the Broccoli Rabe:
It is called a “bitter green” for a good reason: its flavor does have a bitter quality. There are two options to choose from for preparation of the Rabe.
First Method: After cleaning and cutting the greens into pieces, to eliminate the bitterness, you can drop the them into boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. Remove from boiling water, and immediately place the greens into a bowl of ice water for just a minute which will seal the bright green color. Remove from ice water, pat dry and follow instructions below for the sauce.
Second Method: If you like the slightly bitter flavor, there is no need to boil after cleaning the greens. Proceed directly to the sauce instructions.
Heat oil in pan and add the sausage pieces. When just browned add the garlic. Cook a couple of minutes more. Remove the sausage and set aside.
Add the Broccoli Rabe to the oil in the pan that contained the sausage and toss. Then add the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
If you have boiled the greens first, cook a few more minutes until the Rabe is just fork tender. If you have not boiled the greens first, add the Broccoli Rabe to the pan that contained the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes or until the stalk pieces are just fork tender.
At this point – add the sausage back to the pan with the Rabe and toss.
Now - At the very end, add the surprise – the butter. This rounds out the dish with a smooth, velvety flavor. Serve with Parmigiano- Reggiano or for a little more sharpness a Pecorino Romano. (Serves 4)
*Orecchiette Pasta can be found in most grocer pasta sections or specialty markets. If you can’t find it, just substitute a Penne or Ziti.