This is wonderful! The sweetness of the mild Italian sausage pairs beautifully with the slightly bitter taste of the broccoli rabe, and the combination is enhanced by sauteed garlic, sweet white wine and crushed red pepper flakes. This is a traditional dish (Orecchiette con Salsiccia e Cime di Rapa) that is typically made with orecchiette, ear shaped pasta, I made it with farfalle, bow ties, because they did not have orecchiette at the grocery store I happened to go to. Why did I choose farfalle as a substitute? Not only are the little bow ties too cute, but they are a similar size and shape, making them a great substitute! I am sure you could get creative with other pasta also!
This is also a great dish because it's pretty simple, not too time consuming, and because it has meat, vegetables and pasta, it's a pretty complete meal! I fed some to baby tonight and he mostly ate the sausage and pasta, the broccoli rabe was a hard sell to baby... But some of the pasta and sausage has small amounts of broccoli rabe on them, so we got some vegetables in anyway! Ha ha- vegetables 1, baby zero...
Currently, baby is kind of over bananas and thinks tearing apart bread is kind of fun! Of course, feeding the dog is a big past time as well...
Broccoli Rabe and Sausage with Pasta
1 bunch (1 lb.) broccoli rabe
1.25 lb. mild Italian sausage
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sweet white wine (such as Riesling)
1/2 box farfalle, orecchiette or other pasta of similar size
freshly ground pepper
In a heavy pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium low heat. Remove the sausage meat from the casings and place in the pot. If you are able to buy sausage out of the casing, that's great, and just do that! If not, taking the sausage out of the casing is not hard and all, just use both hands and squeeze, meat will come out both ends. Just throw away the casings. It is totally ok if when you remove the meat from the casings that it isn't in uniform or small pieces. Use a wooden spoon while it browns to break it up, with a stabbing motion. As it cooks, it will come apart more easily. Brown the sausage until nearly all the sides of the meat are browned.
When the meat is almost all browned, add the garlic, finely chopped, and the red pepper flakes. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally, until the meat is fully browned and the garlic is fragrant. When the meat is cooked through, the garlic is nicely starting to turn color, add the wine and let it simmer until it is reduced by about 1/2. Set this aside, we'll come back to it!
Meanwhile, bring enough water to a boil in a large pot. For the amount of broccoli rabe and sausage, I used half of a regular sized box of pasta. I'm sure you've heard me say this before, but wait to salt your water until it is close to boiling! I don't know why, but the salt gets stuck to the bottom of the pot if you put it in too early... This is a nice little time saver right here, we are going to use the same water to boil both our pasta and our broccoli rabe! Go us!
Cook the pasta according to the directions to get it just al dente- one of the best reasons I can think of to cook the pasta al dente is that this is a dish I will either reheat or freeze and when it gets reheated, the pasta won't be as firm. So all the more reason to keep it firm on the front end! Moving on! Once your pasta is finished cooking, remove it from the boiling water (but don't pour out the boiling water in the pot), rinse the pasta with cold water in a colander to stop the cooking. Place the pasta, once rinsed, in a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
Now on to the broccoli rabe! To prepare this, just rinse it, cut off some of the tough stem, but not all, it's not all bad! Cut horizontally into pieces about 1-1 1/2" long. Let's use our boiling pasta water to cook it! See how easy that is? Just boil the broccoli rabe for 3 minutes. When it's finished, it will be a beautiful vibrant green- remove it with a slotted spoon and add it to the pot with the sausage and wine. Turn the heat back on on this pot and combine over a low heat for just a few minutes. Add to the pasta in the bowl, toss and combine, adding sea salt and freshly cracked pepper (you won't need much pepper, remember the red pepper flakes are in it!).
To serve, garnish with freshly grated parmesan. Delicious!