What’s that expression about necessity being the mother of all invention? Kitchen-wise, I tend to live by another version of that. It’s called: “Oh @$!*#$. It’s my night to cook and I’m running late. What’s in the fridge that I can throw together and cook in less than 30 minutes?” And once in a while, it works out great, and a new and dinner star is born. Like this broccoli rabe pasta with Italian chicken sausage.
This easy pasta dinner cooks up in under 30 minutes, and tastes great from the combination of the slightly bitter broccoli rabe, salty and flavorful Italian sausage, and generous accents of good olive oil, red pepper flakes, and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Also check out: Classic Italian Meatballs and Italian Sausage & Peppers
Working With Broccoli Rabe
The key to broccoli rabe is to first blanch it in a large pot of salted, boiling water for about 30 seconds. This softens the bitterness and the texture. Drain it in a colander and then chop into pieces. Note: Remove the broccoli rabe with tongs or a slotted spoon, and keep the boiling water. You will cook the pasta in it. (Two birds, one pot.)
Your Own Take
I like rigatoni for this because of its size, and because it tosses well with the sausage pieces and rabe. But any medium-sized pasta like ziti or penne works fine. Feel free to sub in Italian pork or turkey sausage, or even chicken breast pieces. Any type of leafy green vegetable could work here — broccoli rabe isn’t everyone’s favorite — but the best substitutes would be other hearty brassicas like broccoli, broccolini, or kale.
Did you make the recipe? How did it turn out? Tell us in the comments, below.
Broccoli Rabe Pasta With Italian Chicken Sausage
- 1 large head broccoli rabe, rinsed and bottoms trimmed off
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 pound Italian chicken or turkey sausage, removed from casings and broken into pieces
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
- salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. The water should taste like sea water.
- Gently lower the broccoli rabe into the boiling water and let simmer, uncovered, for about 30 seconds to one minute, until it is very wilted. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the rabe and drain it in a large colander.
- When the broccoli rabe is drained well, give it a rough chop on a clean cutting board and set aside.
- Bring the blanching water back to a boil and add the rigatoni. Give it a stir once or twice and cook until very al dente. Drain in the colander, reserving about one cup of pasta water (you will need less than this).
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until the oil shimmers but is not smoking. Lower the heat to medium, and add the sausage pieces. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and half-cooked. Add the garlic and stir. Continue to cook until the sausage is cooked through. You can add a little pasta water if the pan looks dry or if the garlic is over-browning. (Garlic should never get past a toast color or it will taste acrid.)
- Add the broccoli rabe and drained rigatoni to the skillet, along with a little pasta water to make things nice and saucy. Cook, stirring, until everything is combined and cohesive, about five minutes.
- Spoon into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil, and top generously with Pecorino Romano cheese and red pepper flakes.