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Broccoli Rabe + Sausage Pasta

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Go green.

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

pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe in bowl

Meet This Broccoli Rabe Pasta 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 rapini 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 (also known as rapini), 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, Italian Sausage & Peppers, Alice Waters’s Broccoli Mash and Sautéed Broccoli Rabe With Garlic

Working With Broccoli Rabe to Make It Less Bitter

broccoli rabe garlic on wooden board

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.)

This 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 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 or penne 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.

Did you make this broccoli rabe pasta recipe? How did it turn out? Tell us in the comments, below.

pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe in pan

Pasta With Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe - Unpeeled

Broccoli Rabe Pasta With Italian Chicken Sausage

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


  • 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.


  • 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. 🙂

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