Orecchiette pasta tossed with broccoli rabe and Italian sausage is a simple and quick weeknight dinner! Browned sausage and sauteed broccoli rabe add plenty of flavor while a mixture of pasta water and olive oil make a ‘creamy’ thick sauce. This is one of my go-to pasta dinners for busy days.
When I posted my recipe for Pesto Pasta with Green Beans and Potatoes, I mentioned that I was going to add more pasta dishes to the site and really dig into some of our old favorites as well as come up with new favorites.
Not only are Italian and other Mediterranean pasta dishes frequent dinners in my house, which gives me plenty of inspiration to work with, but I think if y’all are already coming here for Italian comfort food and other Italian inspired dishes, it makes sense that pasta is going to be a big favorite with many of you lovely readers.
Actually, while I do know people who don’t eat pasta (because they are following some sort of low-carb diet), I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pasta. A particular pasta dish, yes, but not all of them. So I think adding more pasta dishes to my site is only going to be a good thing.
This particular pasta dish is very Italian American (with its Americanized Italian sausage) but with a strongly Italian sensibility.
- It’s simple. The whole recipe rests on just a few components, so it’s important for each of them to be at their best.
- It features a bitter vegetable. Broccoli rabe is very much an acquired taste which adds a lot of complexity to the dish. (Haven’t acquired it? Feel free to sub in broccoli or broccolini to the recipe. I do that for my daughter sometimes.)
- The sauce is made just with olive oil and pasta water. Simple and amazingly good!
- The meal is finished off with a little basil, some red pepper flakes, and a few shavings of good, aged Parmesan.
To cook it, you are going to want a heavy skillet which will allow you brown everything evenly. I love my cast iron skillet, and that’s what I use here! But the browning is key. I’ve tried making it by steaming or boiling the broccoli with the pasta and you just don’t get the same of flavor as you do if you saute the broccoli rabe.
And of course, browning the sausage makes all the difference too. In fact, I find that packs of Italian sausage meat to be a much better choice than using sausage links. You want all those craggy edges and irregular shapes.
As for the pasta, I’ve tried a few different shapes in this recipe over the years and orecchiette is my favorite. Not that I get too precious about it if I’m ready to make dinner and the only short pasta shape I have in the house (that’s enough for a meal) is penne. If what I have is penne, then I use penne!
However, if you’re out getting the ingredients, it’s worth it to stop by the pasta aisle and get some orecchiette. I tend to go for Pastene pastas, but they’re a local company so I might be biased. 🙂 I actually used to work just down the road from their headquarters. Way back when I used to make my living as an engineer instead of a cook and photographer.
Once you’re done sauteing, all that’s left is to toss the pasta with the sausage and broccoli rabe and add in some pasta water to make a sauce. Simple, tasty, and quick. You’ll have dinner on the table in 30 minutes and your whole meal in one bowl.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
- 10 oz orecchiette, or other short pasta
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 16 oz sweet Italian sausage
- 3 cups broccoli rabe, ends trimmed and yellow leaves removed
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3-4 tbsp sliced fresh basil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- parmesan cheese, shaved
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook according the the package directions. Before you drain the orecchiette, scoop out 1 - 1 1/2 cups of pasta water and set it aside.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil is shimmery, add the sausage, breaking it up as you cook it. When you're done the sausage will be golden to deep brown, in bite sized pieces, and fully cooked through. This will take 12-15 minutes. Transfer the cooked sausage to a bowl.
- Add the broccoli rabe along with 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet. Cover the skillet and let it steam for about 2 minutes. Then uncover the skillet, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and saute the broccoli rabe until it is browned and tender. Add the garlic to the skillet, give it a stir and take the skillet off the heat while the pasta finishes cooking.
- Once the pasta is done, put the skillet on medium high. Add the sausage back to the skillet and then add the pasta. Pour in about 1 cup of the pasta water and cook everything until the sauce is thickened, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle in the basil and red pepper flakes. Serve with shavings of parmesan over the top.
- If you find broccoli rabe too bitter, feel free to switch to broccoli or broccolini. Trim the broccoli and cut it into bite sized florets. You may need to adjust the cooking time. I find that broccoli usually takes a few minutes longer than broccoli rabe to get tender.
- Instead of adding the red pepper flakes, mixing in some hot Italian sausage can be nice.
- I sometimes add a spoonful or two of fresh ricotta (not the stabilized kind) to my bowl after I've plated the pasta. I like the creamy texture and flavor.
- I use my Lodge cast iron skillet when making this. Any heavy skillet will work but I do like the nonstick nature of cast iron. (That said, don't use standard nonstick since you will need to use a fairly high temperature for the sauteing and browning.)