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Orecchiette are the papasan chairs of the pasta world, ready to embrace your socked, woolen, weeknight-weary self just as they cradle crispy bits of sausage and the teeniest florets of greens.
In this recipe, which comes from the Italian region of Puglia and from community member Jenifer Mangione Vogt, you use two skillets—one for the broccoli rabe, one for the sausage—so that you can crisp up the meat in one and steam the rabe in the other before mixing the two with the cooked pasta.
But to save yourself some clean up (amen!), you can do it another way: Bring a pot of water to boil as you crisp up the sausage. Transfer the meat it to a plate when it's cooked to your liking, then use that same skillet to make the rabe. As soon as you add the rabe to the pan, drop the pasta into the boiling water (don't forget to salt it!). It'll be ready just a few minutes after the rabe is finished. You can even transfer the noodles straight to the skillet with a slotted spoon, letting some of the starchy water dribble in if you'd like a creamier sauce.
The only halfway-tricky part of this recipe is cooking the rabe so that it doesn't turn to mush: "One of the biggest mistakes novice (and sometimes even experienced) home chefs make is to overcook vegetables," Jenifer writes.
But if you do overcook the greens—hey, it happens to all of us!—we have a solution for you: Turn your overcooked greens into pesto (all it takes is a whirl in the food processor, with the addition of nuts and cheese as you see fit) and you can make pasta tossed with broccoli rabe pasta and sausage.
A little different, but just as good.
More tips for recipe success (and excitement!):
- With lemon juice and garlic as the primary flavors, this pasta leans more towards bright than spicy. But, if you want to blaze your own trail, choose hot Italian sausage and drop some chile flakes into pan of olive oil about thirty seconds before you add the greens.
- Sub kale (curly or lacinato) for the broccoli rabe, but watch it carefully: It's less woody and will cook much faster.
- If you want a saucier pasta, reserve some of the pasta water after you've removed the little shells from the pot. When you add the pasta back into the pan with the broccoli rabe and the sausage, spoon in a little of the starch water as well. You can grate a generous amount of cheese at this point, too.
- If you're not a sausage-snapper-upper, sub tempeh crumble instead.
- 1/2 cup olive oil (the better the quality, the better the taste), divided
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
- 1 pound Italian sausage, not in casings
- 1 bunch of broccoli rabe, trimmed and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 packet (16 ounces) orecchiette, cooked as instructed and set aside warm
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
What's your favorite weeknight pasta shape and recipe? Tell us in the comments!