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Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Recipe

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is a classic Italian dish that combines the comforting flavors of traditional pasta with the bold addition of savory sausage and slightly bitter greens.

This dish not only pleases your taste buds but also provides a well-rounded meal with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables.

In this recipe, you’ll use orecchiette pasta, which translates to “little ears” in Italian due to the shape of the pasta.

The little “ears” perfectly scoop up the flavorful sausage and broccoli rabe mixture, making every bite delightful.

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, adds a pleasant contrast to the dish with its slightly bitter taste and leafy texture.

The preparation for this dish is relatively simple and makes for a perfect weeknight dinner with minimal fuss.

How to Make Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe recipe feat

Ingredients List

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Step-by-step Process

Step 1:

First, prepare the broccoli rabe by trimming the stems to remove as much of the tough stalk as possible, about 1-2 inches.

Submerge the broccoli rabe in a large bowl of cold water and remove any discolored leaves or debris.

Rinse it thoroughly in a colander under running water.

Step 2:

Blanch the broccoli rabe by plunging it into boiling water and simmering for 2-3 minutes.

Save a cup of the blanching water to use later for the sauce.

Drain the broccoli rabe and immediately plunge it into a bowl of ice water to stop it from overcooking.

Step 3:

In a separate pot, cook the orecchiette pasta in salted boiling water (about 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt) until it’s al dente.

Drain the pasta but reserve the cooking water.

Step 4:

Next, prepare the sausage by removing the casing and crumbling it into small pieces.

Step 5:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the crumbled sausage.

Cook the sausage, occasionally stirring, until it’s browned.

Step 6:

Once the sausage is cooked, add the thinly sliced garlic cloves to the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and slightly golden in color.

Step 7:

Add the blanched broccoli rabe to the skillet with sausage and garlic.

Cook them together until the broccoli becomes tender and the flavors meld, about 5 minutes.

Step 8:

Combine the orecchiette pasta, sausage, and broccoli rabe mixture by gently tossing them together in the skillet.

You may need to add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to help create a sauce.

Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 9:

Serve the orecchiette dish in individual bowls and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Enjoy your delicious Italian pasta dish, which showcases the perfect combination of orecchiette pasta, Italian sausage, and broccoli rabe.

Side Dishes for Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is a delicious and classic Italian pasta dish.

To enhance your dining experience, consider pairing it with some complementary side dishes.

Here are a few recommended options that can perfectly accompany your meal:

Italian Cheese Board

An assortment of Italian cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gorgonzola, and Provolone, can make a beautiful and tasty side dish.

This selection showcases the rich flavors and textures of Italian cheese culture.

The sharpness of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for instance, will provide a delightful contrast to the savory flavors of the orecchiette dish.

Focaccia Bread

Focaccia is a flavorful, slightly chewy Italian bread that goes hand in hand with any pasta meal.

You can find it in various styles, such as plain, garlic, herb-infused, or even topped with olives and tomatoes.

The sturdy structure of focaccia allows you to soak up any leftover sauce on your plate, ensuring you enjoy every last bit of your delicious orecchiette.

Caprese Salad

A simple yet satisfying Caprese salad pairs beautifully with this Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.

Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar create a refreshing and light side dish.

The simplicity of the Caprese salad helps to balance the heavier, savory flavors found in the pasta dish.

Grilled Vegetables

Add color and texture to your meal with a platter of grilled vegetables.

Bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes, lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, will complement your orecchiette dish without overwhelming it.

Choose your favorite veggies, toss them on the grill, and enjoy a healthy, flavorful side dish alongside your pasta.

Remember, when it comes to choosing side dishes for Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, consider the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

Each of the options listed presents an opportunity to bring your meal together and create a delightful dining experience.

Ingredients Substitutes

Regular Broccoli

If you can’t find broccoli rabe, you can use regular broccoli as a substitute.

It has a milder flavor and can still absorb the flavors of the sausage and pasta well.

Chop the broccoli into small florets and blanch them before adding them to your dish.

Homemade Sausage

Feel free to use homemade sausage in place of store-bought.

Customize the seasoning to your taste, and simply crumble or cut the sausage into small pieces before cooking.

You can also experiment with different types of meat, such as pork, beef, or turkey.

Sausage Meat

If you prefer not to use sausage with casings, you can use ground sausage meat instead.

This allows you to control the amount of meat in the dish, easily breaking it into smaller pieces while cooking.

Chicken Sausage

For a lighter, leaner alternative, you can use chicken sausage.

It offers a similar texture and flavor to traditional pork sausage but with less fat.

Make sure to choose a good quality chicken sausage with seasonings that complement the dish.

Mustard Greens

Another option for replacing broccoli rabe is mustard greens.

They have a slightly bitter taste, which pairs well with the rich flavors of sausage and pasta.

Chop the mustard greens and sauté them with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes before adding to your dish.

Lemon Zest

To brighten up the flavors in your Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, consider adding some lemon zest.

This adds a refreshing touch, complementing the bitterness of the broccoli rabe and the richness of the sausage.

Garlic Powder

If you don’t have fresh garlic on hand, you can substitute it with garlic powder.

Use about 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder for each clove of garlic called for in the recipe.

Baby Broccoli

Baby broccoli, also known as broccolini, is another suitable substitute for broccoli rabe.

It shares a similar appearance and taste, with a slightly sweeter profile.

Trim the ends, and blanch the baby broccoli before adding it to your dish.

Sweet Fennel Sausage

Switch up the sausage flavor by using sweet fennel sausage.

This adds a unique, aromatic twist to the dish, with the fennel seeds providing a mild sweetness that pairs well with the other ingredients.

Sweet Sausage

Lastly, you can opt for sweet sausage instead of spicy sausage.

This mild variation still adds depth and richness to the dish without the extra heat, which may be preferable for some palates.

How to Store Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

When you’ve prepared a delicious meal like Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, proper storage is essential to maintain its freshness and flavor.

Here are some tips and methods to help you keep your dish tasting great until the next time you want to enjoy it.

First, make sure you drain the pasta well once it’s cooked to prevent it from becoming too soft.

If it is not completely dry, the excess pasta water could result in a soggy dish.

Rinse the bitter broccoli rabe in cold water and pat it dry before mixing it with the cooked sausage.

This ensures that the greens retain their vibrant color and flavor.

After you have prepared the dish and allowed it to cool, you can use the following storage methods to keep your Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe fresh:

Refrigeration

Store the dish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

You can also cover a plate with plastic wrap if you don’t have a container available.

When you’re ready to eat it, simply reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop until it’s warm.

Freezing

For longer-term storage, consider freezing your Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.

First, allow the dish to cool completely.

Next, place it in a freezer-safe, airtight container or seal it in a freezer bag.

Make sure to leave some space for expansion.

You can store the dish in the freezer for up to 3 months.

When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.

By following these tips and methods, you can ensure that your Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe remains fresh, delicious, and ready to enjoy whenever you’re craving a taste of Italy.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when preparing this meal – much of it applies to similar dishes like my Orecchiette Bolognese recipe.

Not Blanching the Broccoli Rabe

To ensure your broccoli rabe is tender and less bitter, blanch it in boiling water first.

Skipping this step can result in a tough and overly bitter green in your dish.

To blanch, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add ½ teaspoon of salt, and submerge the bunches of broccoli rabe for about a minute.

Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Overcooking the Pasta

Orecchiette should be cooked in the same pot of boiling water as the broccoli rabe to maximize efficiency.

However, it’s crucial to prevent overcooking the pasta.

Cook it until it’s al dente, following the package instructions.

Before draining, reserve a cup of pasta water for use later in the recipe.

Not Properly Browning the Sausage

Browning the sausage adds flavor and texture to the dish, so make sure you break the sausage into smaller bits and cook it evenly in the pan.

Don’t overcrowd the pan or rush the process by having the heat too high, as this may result in unevenly cooked sausage.

Skimping on Seasonings

Using the right amount of seasonings is essential for a well-balanced and flavorful dish.

Add several cloves of garlic, crushed red pepper flakes for a hint of heat, and season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Adjust the seasonings according to your personal preference.

Not Using the Pasta Water

The reserved cup of pasta water contains starch that helps in creating a smooth, glossy sauce that clings to the pasta.

Skipping the addition of pasta water can result in a dry and less cohesive dish.

When combining the pasta with the sausage and broccoli rabe sauce, add a little of the reserved pasta water at a time, tossing until you get your desired consistency.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to make a delicious and satisfying Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe dish that’s full of flavor and perfectly cooked.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe recipe feat

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Recipe

A classic Italian dish that combines the comforting flavors of traditional pasta with the bold addition of savory sausage and slightly bitter greens.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Equipment
  • 1 large bowl
  • 1 colander
  • 2 saucepans
  • 1 Large skillet
Ingredients
  
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra-virgin
  • 3 garlic cloves large
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano grated
Instructions
 
  • First, prepare the broccoli rabe by trimming the stems to remove as much of the tough stalk as possible, about 1-2 inches.
    Submerge the broccoli rabe in a large bowl of cold water and remove any discolored leaves or debris.
    Rinse it thoroughly in a colander under running water.
  • Blanch the broccoli rabe by plunging it into boiling water and simmering for 2-3 minutes.
    Save a cup of the blanching water to use later for the sauce.
    Drain the broccoli rabe and immediately plunge it into a bowl of ice water to stop it from overcooking.
  • In a separate pot, cook the orecchiette pasta in salted boiling water (about 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt) until it's al dente.
    Drain the pasta but reserve the cooking water.
  • Next, prepare the sausage by removing the casing and crumbling it into small pieces.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the crumbled sausage.
    Cook the sausage, occasionally stirring, until it's browned.
  • Once the sausage is cooked, add the thinly sliced garlic cloves to the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and slightly golden in color.
  • Add the blanched broccoli rabe to the skillet with sausage and garlic.
    Cook them together until the broccoli becomes tender and the flavors meld, about 5 minutes.
  • Combine the orecchiette pasta, sausage, and broccoli rabe mixture by gently tossing them together in the skillet.
    You may need to add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to help create a sauce.
    Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve the orecchiette dish in individual bowls and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
    Enjoy your delicious Italian pasta dish, which showcases the perfect combination of orecchiette pasta, Italian sausage, and broccoli rabe.

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