This is a classic Italian winter dish. I really like to make it when it is cold outside, because the pasta is creamy and filling. I also like to use spicy sausage instead of mild, or blend in a proportion of both. Broccoli rabe is the classic vegetable used in Italy , but regular broccoli is fine. You can also substitute in kale which goes nicely with sausage. I’ve also seen a variation with cooked tomatoes that was especially delicious. There is a lot of variety to the dish, but what is below is closest to the classic version. This will feed around 5 to 6 people.
You will need:
- 1 pound orecchiette
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings (or spicy, if you prefer)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 reserve pasta water
- broccoli florets or kale
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan
Begin cooking the pasta. If you cannot find orecchiette, substitute small shells. Cook it al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water
Once you have the pasta started, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the sausage.
Cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon, until the sausage starts to brown, 5-6 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
Add the reserve pasta water, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, broccoli, chicken broth, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is tender-crisp, 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the butter until melted and simmer for a few minutes to reduce and concentrate the sauce.
Add the cooked and drained pasta and toss well.
Fresh grated cheese really makes a difference here. It is really worth the extra step and effort. However,if you have to substitute it’s not the end of the world. If you can’t find Romano, it’s fine to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano.