Happy Monday, kiddos!
Today, I am super excited because I am sharing my absolutely favorite weeknight dinner that I created FIVE YEARS ago… pre-food blog, pre-decent cooking skills, pre-camera, pre-everything.
Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta was my first recipe creation when I was a senior in college, trying to expand my cooking skills beyond baked chicken and rice. I remember that I was hurriedly grocery shopping one day and tossed a bunch of broccoli rabe, some sausage, and some orecchiette pasta into my cart. When I got home, I had no idea what to do with them…
After a little Google research and some memory searching (my mom made broccoli rabe all the time at home), I decided that I was going to make a big pasta dish full of spicy broccoli rabe and crumbled sausage. I made an executive decision and threw in a can of cannellini beans to not only add a creamy element to the dish, but also to extend the dish a bit further (I was a college student on a budget!). And that is how Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta was born.
When I whip up this dish today, I can see myself standing in front of that old stove in my senior housing kitchen making dinner after a long day. And it tastes just as amazing as it did that first time!
It starts with preparing the broccoli rabe.
Get a large bunch of broccoli rabe and remove the fibrous stems. Then chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place them into a colander so you can wash the broccoli rabe really well. Pop the broccoli rabe in a deep-sided skillet (that I’ll use again for other steps in the dish) and add in enough water to coat the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan (no lid? use a cookie sheet!) and steam the broccoli rabe for 2-3 minutes until it has wilted slightly and has turned bright green.
Drain the broccoli rabe in the colander and allow it to cool as you continue to assemble the “sauce” part of this pasta dish.
Then next step is to add a small bit of olive oil to that same deep-sided skillet that has been set over medium heat. I added in a pound of crumbled Italian sausage and cooked it until it was completely cooked. I used a mix of both spicy and sweet sausage, but if you want to control the spiciness of the dish, you can definitely use sweet sausage only! When the sausage is completely cooked through, remove it from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Remove the grease from the pan and use a paper towel to wipe up any burnt sausage bits. Because burnt sausage bits do not taste yummy.
Place the skillet back on medium-low heat (I told you that you’re going to use it a lot!) and add in some more olive oil. Add in half a chopped onion and cook until soft and tender. Then add in some minced garlic (yum!) and some hot pepper flakes. This will give the dish a bit of kick! When the garlic and onion are fragrant, add in the broccoli rabe and the sausage.
And some cannellini beans! These creamy Italian white beans are delicious and help the dish stretch a bit. Sauté the broccoli rabe, sausage, and beans together for about a minute to help start bringing the flavors together.
Then pour in some low-sodium chicken broth. This helps the dish become more like a “sauce” rather than a mixture of broccoli rabe, sausage, and beans. Turn the heat down to a simmer, put a lid on the skillet (no lid? use a cookie sheet!), and allow the sauce to hang out while the pasta is cooking.
I recommend using orecchiette pasta, because its shape lends itself to holding onto some of the crumbled sausage, some of the beans, and some of the broccoli rabe. If you don’t have orecchiette, you can definitely substitute any short pasta here, like penne, bow ties, etc.
When the pasta is ready, using a GLASS measuring cup, take out about 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta well and then add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Stir to combine – if the pasta dish looks too dry, add in some of the pasta water until you reach the sauce consistency of your choice.
Then pile up the pasta in bowls…
… and dig in!
I hope you enjoy this blast-from-the-past dish!
Your throwback recipe lovin’ friend,
- 1lb bunch of broccoli rabe
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1lb Italian sausage, hot or sweet or a combination
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ white onion, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-15oz can low-sodium canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 12oz orecchiette pasta, cooked to package instructions
- Place bunch of broccoli rabe on a cutting board and remove the woody stem end. Chop the broccoli rabe into bite-sized pieces and place in a colander and wash thoroughly. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a deep-side skillet with a lid (no lid? use a cookie sheet!), pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the skillet and steam the broccoli rabe for 2-3 minutes until it is slightly wilted and bright green. Drain the broccoli rabe into the colander and set aside.
- In the same skillet set over medium heat, add in one teaspoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in the sausage. Stir the sausage around with a spoon or spatula, breaking the sausage into large crumbles. Cook until completely done in the middle and then remove the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Drain the grease from the skillet, wipe out any burnt sausage bits, and set the skillet back on medium-low heat. Add in one tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in the chopped onion. Cook until soft and tender, 2-3 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and the hot red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
- Add the broccoli rabe, the sausage, and the cannellini beans to the skillet, stir together, and cook for 1 minute to help the flavors start to meld. Pour over the chicken broth, stir, and reduce the heat to a simmer while the pasta cooks.
- In a large pot of water brought to a rolling boil, add in some salt and the orecchiette pasta (about three-quarters of the box). Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. When the pasta is cooked, remove 1 cup of the pasta cooking water using a GLASS measuring up. *Please be careful - this is boiling hot water*. Drain the pasta and then add it to the skillet with the broccoli rabe and sausage.
- Stir pasta into the broccoli rabe and sausage mixture, adding in some of the pasta water if the mixture looks dry. When the dish is to your preference, dish it up and top with parmesan cheese if you desire. Enjoy!
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