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Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pasta

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Go green.

Broccoli rabe recipes don’t get better than this pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe that comes together quickly and has balanced flavors of bitter greens, salty cheese, all tossed into a satisfying pasta with Italian sausage. 

sausage and broccoli rabe pasta
A finished bowl of pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe. Top with grated cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.

Meet this pasta, sausage, and broccoli rabe recipe

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 no. 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 and Italian sausage pasta recipe.

This easy pasta dish cooks up in under 30 minutes, and tastes great from the combination of the slightly bitter broccoli rabe (also known as rapini), salty and flavorful Italian sausage, and generous accents of good olive oil, red pepper flakes, and pecorino-Romano cheese.

pasta sausage broccoli rabe ingredients
Just a few ingredients combine to make this flavorful and easy pasta dinner.

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe to Make It Less Bitter

The key to cooking broccoli rabe to get some of the bitter flavor out, as well as improve the texture, is to first blanch it in a large pot of well-salted, boiling water for about 30 seconds. This softens the bitterness and the texture. There will still be that signature rapini flavor, don’t worry, but less harsh and more palatable.

Drain the broccoli rabe 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.)

This sausage and rapini pasta recipe does require the extra step of blanching the greens, but it’s worth it for the end result. This broccoli rabe and sausage pasta is just so good.

broccoli rabe and Italian sausage
Cook the pieces of Italian sausage in a skillet with olive oil. Then add the blanched, chopped broccoli rabe and garlic.

How to Make This Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pasta Recipe

This is a fantastic weeknight pasta recipe because it comes together so easily, with minimal work and ingredients. The pot of salted water gets used twice: once to blanch the broccoli rabe and remove excess bitter flavor, and once to cook the pasta. Learn more.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head broccoli rabe, rinsed and bottom inch of stems trimmed off
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds Italian pork, chicken, or turkey sausage, removed from casings and broken into pieces
  • 1 pound medium-sized pasta, such as fusilli, orecchiette, or rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • Pecorino-Romano or parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. The water should taste like sea water.
  2. 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 and very bright green. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the rabe and drain it in a large colander. Reserve the pot of water.
  3. When the broccoli rabe is drained well, give it a rough chop on a clean cutting board and set aside.
  4. Bring the blanching water back to a boil and add the pasta. 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).
  5. 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 chopped broccoli rabe, 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.)
  6. Add the drained pasta to the skillet, along with a little pasta cooking water to make things nice and saucy. Cook, stirring, until everything is combined and cohesive, about five minutes.
  7. Spoon into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil, and top generously with pecorino-Romano cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.
crumbled Italian sausage and rapini in skillet before adding pasta
Add the chopped broccoli rabe and garlic to the partially-cooked Italian sausage. Continue to cook, adding pasta water as needed.

Broccoli Rabe Sausage Pasta: Substitutions and Tips

  • Pasta shapes: 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, penne, fusilli, or orecchiette works fine.
  • Sausage: Feel free to interchange in Italian pork, chicken or turkey sausage, or even chicken breast pieces.
  • Broccoli Rabe: 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.

pasta sausage and broccoli rabe

Also check out: Classic Italian Meatballs, Italian Sausage & Peppers, Alice Waters’s Broccoli Mash and Sautéed Broccoli Rabe With Garlic

pasta sausage and broccoli rabe

Pasta With Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

A 30-minute pasta dish that tastes satisfying and fresh, with just the right sharpness from the broccoli rabe, saltiness from crumbled Italian sausage, and topped with good grated cheese.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keywords:: dinner, easy, italian, pasta, sausage
Servings: 4 people
Author: Lisa Ruland
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Ingredients

  • 1 large head broccoli rabe, rinsed and bottoms trimmed off
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, removed from casings and broken into pieces. Pork, chicken, or turkey sausage is fine.
  • 12 ounces medium-sized pasta, such as rigatoni, fusilli, or orecchiette
  • 1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pecorino-Romano or parmesan cheese
  • Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Instructions

  • 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. Reserve the pot of water.
    PRO TIP: Blanching the rapini in salted water removes the excessive bitter flavor. Using the same water to cook the pasta adds a little extra oomph of flavor, and saves a lot of trouble (and water).
  • 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 pasta. Give it a stir once or twice and cook until very al dente. Drain in a 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. Use a wooden spoon or similar tool to break apart any large pieces of sausage.
    Add the garlic and chopped broccoli rabe 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.
    PRO TIP: Garlic should never get past a toast color or it will taste acrid.
  • Add the drained pasta to the skillet, along with a little more 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 or parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.

5 comments

  • Cynthia

    This recipe is so easy & delicious!
    Much better than the way I used to prepare it. Thank you!

  • Barbara

    One of my favorite dishes! Delicious!

  • Debbie Johnson

    5 stars
    My family loved this dish! It was very flavorful and so easy to make!

  • Mariann

    5 stars
    Great family dinner if your kids can handle broccoli rabe, which mine can’t so I subbed broccoli and they really liked it. 🙂

4.34 from 3 votes (1 rating without comment)

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