Orecchiette, Rapini and Sausage

This is another one of my old-standby favorite recipes which makes it into the rotation almost once a month during the cooler months.  It’s super easy and oh-so delicious…I consider it a slightly more upscale comfort food. Great for a cold or rainy night, the type of dish that warms the soul and makes the house smell delish.

Broccoli Rabe is also known as Rapini and what I love about it in particular is how the greens develop a slightly bitter, horseradish-like flavor, yum.  Orecchiette is an ear shaped pasta that stays nice and firm when cooked so that it has a nice bite to it.


2-3 sweet or spicy uncooked italian sausage links (optional…you can omit this to make this dish vegetarian as in the original recipe….we just like to add sausage some times)
1 lb broccoli rabe (rapini), tough stems trimmed, roughly chopped
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
5 cups vegetable (or reduced-sodium chicken) broth
8 oz orecchiette (whole-wheat if you can find it)
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted quickly in a dry pan (don’t skip the walnuts! I actually add extra they just add something so critical to the dish.  I often forget to toast them though, so I don’t find the toasting crucial)
Grated parmesan cheese (optional…original recipe doesn’t call for this, but I like it)


  1. If adding sausage (otherwise start with step 2) to this dish, start by squeezing the sausage out of the casing into a large pot or dutch oven and crumbling with a wooden spoon while cooking until browned and cooked through.  Remove sausage and set aside.
  2. Next, add oil (you may not need as much if there’s grease left in the pan from the sausage), garlic, rosemary and crushed red pepper to the same pot you used to cook the sausage (if using); cook, stirring over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add broth (scraping up any bits off the bottom) and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and the broccoli rabe (which the originally recipe tells you to cook first in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 1 minute and then refresh under cold running water – but I skip this step and don’t find it to make any difference).
  4. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender (but still has a bit of a bite) and most of the liquid is absorbed…15 to 18 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve in bowls, sprinkled with walnuts and parmesan cheese