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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recipe adopted from America's Test Kitchen's 2011 Cooking for Two.  [Recipe serves 4].

You may have noticed that hearty, leafy bitter greens like kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard have gained quite the following over the past few years due to their health benefits.  One additional green that is more recently gaining popularity in the States is broccoli rabe [robb].  Despite the fact that it doesn't belong in the same family as broccoli, this leafy green has a similar smell but has a bitter taste to it.  As is done in this recipe, preparation typically consists of discarding any yellow leafs, trimming the thick ends off, blanching in salted water, and serving with pasta.

When you search for recipes to serve this vegetable with, you'll notice that it's extremely common to toss with Italian sausage and orecchiette.  I wasn't sure what to expect since this was my first time cooking with broccoli rabe, but I loved the end result.  The broth, pasta stock, and anchovies gave the dish a balanced flavor (saltiness), the red pepper flakes supplied the perfect amount of heat, and the combination of a little flour with the broth gave just enough sauce to coat my all-time favorite type of pasta:  orecchiette.

1/2 pound to 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

12 ounces orecchiette pasta (Alessi brand or similar recommended)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Bring roughly 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and add the broccoli rabe.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the broccoli rabe turns bright green.  Remove the greens with a set of tongs and transfer to an ice bath.  [Side note:  Make sure you just remove the greens rather than draining off the water through a colander, since you'll be reusing the flavored water later on].  Once cooled, gently wring out excess water and let dry on a stack of paper towels.

Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Once up to temp, add the sausage and break down with a wooden spoon.  Cook until nicely browned.

Bring your pot of flavored water back to a boil and cook orecchiette pasta until al dente, roughly 14 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, stir in the garlic, anchovy, flour, and red pepper flakes to the sausage and cook for an additional minute.  Deglaze the pan by stirring in the broth and scraping off any bits from the bottom.  Bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat.  Stir in the broccoli rabe and reserve.

Once the pasta is ready, drain off the water, reserving one cup.  Add the pasta, sauce, and cheese to your large pasta bowl and stir until combined.  Add up to 1 cup of pasta water to achieve your desired consistency.  Season if needed, and serve with additional Pecorino Romano.

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  1. Mouthwatering recipe and looks really eye pleasing. Thanks for sharing.