Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage, while perfect for a weeknight meal it also makes a wonderful dish to serve when you have guests over for dinner. I love having impromptu dinners for our friends and when I do, I often serve an Italian meal. Why Italian you might ask? It is usually quick and easy to prepare so you don’t have to spend the whole day in the kitchen and tell me, who doesn’t like Italian food?
If I’m cooking a casual meal for friends, I usually serve the dinner right at my kitchen table. I’ll just add a leaf and bring over a couple of additional chairs from our other dining table. If so, I like to have as much of the meal prepared in advance so that the kitchen is clean and there is minimal work left to be done right before the food is served. Pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage is a perfect dish for these occasions as everything except the pasta can be cooked in advance. Once my guests have arrived, I’ll serve an appetizer then afterwards I’ll cook my pasta, finish the dish and serve it family style at our table.
Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Recipe serves 4 to 6, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
- 2 bunches broccoli rabe, woody stems discarded, and the broccoli cut into 2 in. pieces
- 1/2 – 3/4 lb. hot Italian sausage cut into bite size pieces or remove the casings and tear the sausage into small pieces
- 2 Tbs. olive oil plus and additional 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped fine
- 4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 c. chicken broth
- 1 c. reserved pasta cooking water
- 1/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more to serve at the table
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then cook the broccoli for 2 – 3 minutes until just tender. Remove and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and retain the green color. Drain well, then set aside in a bowl. I like to do this step to insure that the greens are not too bitter but you can eliminate if the broccoli is young and tender. The broccoli can be cooked, covered and refrigerated ahead of time until ready to complete the dish.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan. Brown the sausage until just cooked through. Add the 1/4 c. olive oil then add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook until the onions are soft. Add the chicken stock and let simmer for several minutes more. The sausage sauce can be cooked ahead of time, covered and refrigerated until ready to complete the dish.
In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, I like to save and use the pot of water the broccoli rabe was cooked in for added taste and nutrition. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until just al dente. Drain the pasta, saving a cup of the water, then add the pasta to the sausage mixture along with the broccoli rabe. Cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes for the pasta to finish cooking. Add the pecorino cheese, toss well and taste for any additional seasoning that might be needed. If the pasta appears dry, add some of the reserved pasta water and toss again. After plating, you may wish to add a drizzle of extra olive oil and an additional grating of cheese.
My husband and I recently had two couples over for one of our impromptu dinners and I served this popular Italian dish which everyone seemed to really enjoy. The “little pasta ears” trapped bits of goodness in each bite…the richness of the sausage and the bitter greens were a perfect combination of flavors.
For appetizers, I served a large antipasto that I had prepared earlier in the day. Marinated olives, three Italian cold cuts (salami, mortadella and hot capicola), sliced provolone, marinated baby mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, roasted red and yellow peppers and marinated artichoke hearts. There was something for everyone, plenty of veggies for those wanting to eat light with the addition of meats and cheeses for the heartier appetites. Glasses of wine and a crusty loaf of Italian bread with my homemade dipping oil was the perfect accompaniment.
Once the appetizers were finished, I went to the stove and cooked the orecchiette. When done, I added it to the broccoli rabe and sausages that I’d prepared earlier in the day. The finished pasta was plated and on the table in less than fifteen minutes, with only one large pot and pan left sitting on the stove…no muss, no fuss. Try sharing this pasta dish with your friends soon, if they are like our friends they will love the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausages.