Thursday, January 20, 2011

Orecchiette with Spicy Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

      The old expression ‘while the cats away’ certainly applies to this particular dish.  Andrew was off in Texas visiting his family and I was here in New York playing away in the kitchen.  Now Andrew is not a picky eater but there are certain things that just don’t fly on his palate.  To name a few: Olives, Goat Cheese and Broccoli Rabe.  On the other hand, I am the consummate omnivore and there’s very little that I won’t eat.  But in the interests of domestic harmony, I avoid recipes with any ingredient Andrew doesn’t like.  I eat these favorites when we go out.  And I’m fortunate that we eat out often enough that I never feel deprived.  However, his absence lets me cook whatever comes to mind and, in this case, gives me a perfect opportunity to share one of my favorite dishes.

West Bank Cafe
New Paradise Cafe
            I’ve eaten versions of Orrecchiette with Sausage and Brocolli Rabe all over the place.  The wonderful New Paradise Café (126 Main Street, Sag Harbor NY Tel 631-725-6080) does a great version.  Our pre-theater favorite, West Bank Café (407 West 42nd St. NY, NY Tel 212 695-6909) has one with “Parmesan Foam” that’s absolutely delicious.  As I researched the recipe, I discovered that everyone from Giada di Laurentis to Martha Stewart have made the dish although Giada uses Turkey sausage in hers which explains why she is a size 0 and Martha and I aren’t.  Bless her. 
I am sure the reason that everyone flocks to this recipe is that it’s so easy to make, takes so little time--10 minutes prep, 20 minutes to cook-- and packs terrific flavor.  The Orecchiette are so-called because they are shaped like ears (Orecchi in Italian) and they are perfect little bowls to hold the sauce.  The sausage and garlic give some punch to the sauce and the broccoli rabe is eye-catchingly beautiful.  And here’s what else: Brocolli is one of the “Super foods”.   Brocolli packs in anti-oxidants including Vitamin C but it’s also an excellent source of folate, which is thought to be a major benefit in preventing heart disease.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Broccoli contains Lutein, which I can promise from my days on Bausch & Lomb, can slow the progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, the major cause of impaired vision and blindness in older people.  And to top it all off, broccoli also contain a phytochemical called suphoraphane which has specific ant-cancer properties.  And can I tell you something?  The sausage and the cheese seems to soften any bitterness associated with Broccoli Rabe and make it something that to me has more character and flavor that ordinary run-of-the mill broccoli ever had.  Finally, winter is Broccoli Rabe season!  The crop is freshest and finest now. So eat your broccoli!  And, Andrew, you’ve just got to try this.  Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. Serves 4.

1 1/4 lb broccoli rabe, ends trimmed, stems trimmed

12 oz orecchiette, farfalle or penne pasta

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed

3 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch crushed red pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe; cook 1 to 2 minutes until crisp-tender. Lift with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

Add pasta to pot. Cook as package directs until tender to the bite (al dente). Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain.

While pasta cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, breaking up chunks, 8 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. Add garlic and crushed pepper; cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add broccoli rabe and pasta to skillet; toss to mix and coat. Add reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten. Stir in cheese and pepper.


  1. I love this dish too and can't wait to try cooking it at home...

  2. Making this today! Thanks Monte, happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Happy Thanksgiving to you! And what a wonderful side dish! Come to think of it, sounds better than dressing!