Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pasta, A simple weeknight meal that’s bursting with flavor. This pasta recipe is about to become a favorite.

Back in the day, I used to receive a subscription to a mini food magazine called “Everyday Food“, a Martha Stewart publication that began before the days of “Real Simple.” I loved cooking out of these magazines because they really did contain basic recipes for beginners that were just interesting enough in flavor and technique to justify a minor mess in the kitchen.

This recipe was one of the ones that caught my eye, specifically because of the use of broccoli rabe which, according to my 2012 self, I had never cooked with or eaten before. The original recipe called for blanching, then roasting the vegetable before adding it to the pan where the sausage is cooked, then adding the pasta and so on. Back then, that may have seemed like a perfectly reasonable request… but Dianna of 2019 “ain’t got time for that”, so I streamlined the process in order to 1. Cut down on the amount of pans to wash, and 2. Have dinner ready even faster. You’re welcome.

Broccoli rabe may be unfamiliar to you {as it was for me in 2012}, so I thought I’d make the proper introductions. Reader? This is broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe? This is the reader. It goes by various names, including: raab, rapa, rapine, rappi, turnip broccoli, and Italian or Chinese broccoli. Though its name implies that it’s related to broccoli, it’s actually a relative of turnips and wild herbs.

Flavor-wise, it has a slight bitterness to it, which may be unexpected at first, but I think it can be quite pleasant once you get accustomed to it. The leaves, buds and stems are all edible, and just need a rinse and a trim at the ends before cooking.

Blanching — a cooking method that involves a quick boil immediately followed by a plunge in ice water or rinse under cold running water — can help to mellow out the bitterness if you’re not fond of that pungent kick. {But again, I urge you to try it a few times before you turn your nose up at it.} Once the broccoli rabe is blanched, you can saute it, roast it or grill it to your liking.

After doing a good amount of Googling, I came to find that broccoli rabe is often served with both pork dishes and one specific kind of pasta: Orecchiette.

The literal meaning of “Orecchiette” is “little ears”, which makes total sense when you take a look at their scooped out shape. I’m not sure what about Orecchiette makes it such a popular pairing for broccoli rabe, but who am I to mess with tradition?

If you can’t find Orecchiette and don’t particularly mind going against the grain, I’ve also made this successfully with pasta shells, which happen to be my 4 year old’s preferred pasta shape, and therefore, can almost always be found in my pantry.

Now that you know a little about the stars of this dish, let’s talk about the big picture. Perfectly al dente orecchiette pasta, browned sausage, sauteed broccoli rabe and the best part of most pasta dishes — cheese! — come together to create something so simple, but so good and flavorful!

A few notes:

I used a mild Italian chicken sausage, but you can use whatever type you prefer, even vegan sausage! Or leave it out altogether for a veggie-forward pasta dish.
There’s no need to drain your pasta water and start with fresh water for blanching. Just cook your pasta and scoop it into a bowl, then you can reuse that water to quickly cook your broccoli rabe.
As directed, save a little bit of that starchy pasta water to toss in at the end. It will help create a “sauce” when it combines with the cheese.
I used an Italian cheese blend with Parmesan, Romano & Asiago, but you can use your favorite. For a little more “cheese pull”, try adding some shredded mozzarella.
I added a hint of red pepper flakes for some heat and a squeeze of fresh lemon over the top at the very end for a little acidity and brightness. If you really enjoy that pop of lemon flavor, you can toss in a bit of lemon zest.

Broccoli Rabe Pasta
 
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
 
Author:
Recipe Type: Main
Ingredients
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound mild Italian chicken {or pork} sausage, removed from casing
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ⅓ cup Italian cheese blend of your choice, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Red pepper flakes for sprinkling, if desired
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions or desired doneness. {Mine took about 12 minutes.} When the pasta is cooked, scoop it out with a slotted spoon into a bowl while you cook the broccoli rabe.
  2. Bring the pasta water back up to a rolling boil add the broccoli rabe. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until the leaves have wilted down. Drain, saving about 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta water, and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage (removed from casings), and break up with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until no longer pink. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute, then add blanched broccoli rabe to the pan and saute for another 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the pan, along with the butter. Toss everything to combine.
  5. Add cheese and a few tablespoons of pasta water and mix until the cheese is melted and the pasta is coated.
  6. Before serving, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over top of the pasta and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and extra cheese if desired. Serve hot.

 

Dianna Muscari

Dianna Muscari blogs about her cooking and antics on The Kitchen Prep. A self-taught cook and baker, Dianna shares with her readers the messes and successes she encounters in the kitchen. Along with her recipes - which range from healthy to hearty to downright decadent - Dianna shares anecdotes about life, marriage, travel, and living in Florida. Her conversational writing style draws you into her kitchen for a meal and a laugh as she navigates through life one recipe at a time.

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