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
4 to 6
artisanal Italian pasta (rigatoni, penne, ziti, shells)
nduja (spicy Calabrian sausage)
broccoli raab (or other hearty cooking green such as kale)
grated aged pecorino cheese (ideally something strong and hard from the Abruzzi or Sardinia)
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.
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.
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.