Pasta with Nduja & Bitter Greens

August 16, 2017
7 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Pasta with a small amount of meat and greens (bitter or otherwise) is a classic southern Italian template, from Abruzzese sausage with broccoli raab to Neapolitan pancetta with turnip greens. I love working with this combination: The fatty pork adds a little richness to the dish, and the bitter greens cuts that richness. They both play off the neutral flavor of the pasta.

Nduja, once obscure—so much so that I was not familiar with it when I was living in Italy—is a spicy, spreadable fermented sausage, available at many grocery stores and online. The pork’s spreadability makes it versatile, and once removed from its casing, it dissolves easily into the pan. Since nduja is already highly seasoned, so I don’t add much else to the pan besides the pasta and greens. (If you can spot the heirloom spigarello broccoli at a farmers market, that’s a bonus—but the beauty of this template is its riff-ability.) —Sara Jenkins

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound artisanal Italian pasta (rigatoni, penne, ziti, shells)
  • 1/4 pound nduja (spicy Calabrian sausage)
  • 1 bunch broccoli raab (or other hearty cooking green such as kale)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated aged pecorino cheese (ideally something strong and hard from the Abruzzi or Sardinia)
  • 1/4 cup fried bread crumbs (optional)
  • 1 pinch salt, to taste
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add plenty of salt. (I like to make my blanching and cooking water salty as the sea.) When the water comes to a boil, blanch the broccoli raab for about 4-5 minutes, then remove them from the water without draining it. Keep the water in the pot because you are going to cook the pasta in the same water. Let the drained greens cool in a single layer, on a paper towel-lined tray.
  2. Meanwhile take the nduja (a spicy sausage with a spreadable consistency, made of ground pork and Calabrian chilis), and heat the olive oil gently over medium heat in a heavy pot. (My old, faithful Le Creuset pot works well for for this.) Crumble the sausage in, stirring it around and breaking it apart until it is all broken up and cooked out, and the oil is stained dark red from the chili. Take your greens and rough cut them into pieces of about 2” in length, or about the same length as your pasta. Fry them up with the sausage until warmed through. Add a tablespoon or two of pasta cooking water to the dish to smooth it out and make it saucy, shaking the pan and greens around so that the fat starts to emulsify with the water.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions in the same water the broccoli or greens were cooked in (brought back to a boil and added to, if necessary). Drain the pasta and toss with the sausage and greens in the pot or in a large bowl. Add half the cheese and toss. Add the breadcrumbs, if using, and toss. Serve with the remaining cheese, passed around at the table. Eat, as always, immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sharada Sridhar
    Sharada Sridhar
  • FrugalCat
  • Nikkitha Bakshani
    Nikkitha Bakshani
  • Dusty411

7 Reviews

Sharada S. March 16, 2021
Just made this, with an addition of a few anchovies as the nduja broke down. It's great!

A crispy breadcrumb topping is a must!

But I would definitely double the greens next time, adding more broccoli rabe or including kale.
Dusty411 August 24, 2020
I snuck in a few anchovies with the nduja and subbed radicchio and escarole for the broccoli raab and it was delicious. I’ll probably use less pasta and more vegetables next time, just as a personal preference, but this recipe is a winner.
Susanne April 5, 2020
I return to this again and again. As the author says, the template is easily variable to suit any taste. But let's just say that I make sure to keep nduja in stock and have started growing spigarello broccoli.
Arrxx August 25, 2017
A small amount of tomato sauce is a good addition. You can also add the chopped broccoli raab during the last few minutes of cooking the pasta and drain everything at once.
FrugalCat August 24, 2017
This was also really good with spinach instead of kale. Spinach cooks super fast. I used regular spinach, not baby.
Deb August 21, 2017
Is it really one cup of olive oil?
Nikkitha B. August 22, 2017
Thanks for pointing this out, Deb. I've modified the amount above.