Every time I cook this Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe I’m reminded that in all my years of living in New York City I never managed to get a reservation at Rao’s Italian restaurant in Harlem. Rao’s is a tiny little place that was started by Italian immigrant Charles Rao in 1896, and it’s still one of the hottest restaurants in town and nearly impossible to get into without connections. But they have a great cookbook! Rao’s Cookbook is filled with recipes from the restaurant, irresistible home-style Italian dishes. This is pasta recipe is one of my favorites.
Broccoli rabe is a curious vegetable. The buds look like broccoli, but it has a much stronger, more distinctive taste.
I looked it up and its in the Brassicaceae family, a category of flowering plants informally known as mustard flowers. That explains its nutty, spicy bite.
A quick blanching softens the broccoli rabe to a beautiful bright green color and the perfect texture to soak up all the garlic and spicy flavors of the sausage.
HOW TO MAKE PASTA WITH SAUSAGE AND BROCCOLI RABE
First blanch the broccoli rabe. Blanching is an easy and useful technique for preparing greens for sautéing in any recipe. The quick boiling water bath softens them just a bit and brings out their best and brightest green color. Shocking them with ice water puts an immediate stop to the cooking process, preventing them from getting mushy, overcooked, and dull-looking. You can then give them a quick toss in a pan with garlic and oil and spices and they are ready to eat.
I love the mix of flavors in this recipe – the rich meaty sausage with the sweet, spicy garlic and bitter broccoli rabe and the salty, sharp accents of the pecorino.
Fun Fact about Pasta
According to the International Pasta Organization Italy produces more pasta than any other nation. The US is number two. Most pasta names are the Italian word that describes their shape: Orecchiette means “little ears.” Vermicelli – “small worms,” spaghetti – “thin strings,” farfalle – “butterflies,” buccatini – “little hole,” and so on…
Will I ever get to experience this dish at Rao’s Restaurant on East 114th street in New York City? Probably not. Rao’s is considered one of most hard-to-get reservations of all New York City restaurants. They have only ten tables and apparently are so devoted to their local and long-standing customers that they’re practically a private club.
You need to know somebody who knows somebody who has an in, and even then you might wait a year or two for your seat. In the meantime, we can enjoy one of Rao’s most delicious dishes at home!
Here’s the recipe for Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. If you try this recipe I hope you’ll come back to leave a rating and a comment. I’d love to know what you think!Print
Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
A wonderful, spicy, flavorful pasta dish from New York’s famous Italian restaurant Rao’s – Orecchiette with hot and sweet Italian sausages, garlic, broccoli rabe and Pecorino cheese.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 35 mins
- Yield: 4
- Category: Pasta Main Dish
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 pound of broccoli rabe (1 bunch)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pound Italian sausage, (3-4) a mix of sweet and hot, to your taste, casings removed, cut into bite-size pieces.
- 1 cup of broccoli rabe water – reserved from when you pre-cook the broccoli rabe
- salt and pepper, to taste
- I pound orecchiette pasta
- Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly-grated
- Blanch The Broccoli Rabe: Cut away thicker tough stems. Tear leaves into large pieces. Rinse. Add broccoli rabe to a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it’s bright green and the stems are crisp-tender. Reserve one cup of the cooking water, then drain and quickly plunge broccoli rabe into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and sausage. Sauté, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through and browned in spots.
- Add broccoli rabe to the sausage, along with the broccoli rabe water, salt and pepper, to taste. Turn heat to high and cook, stirring, till sauce is hot.
- Meanwhile, cook orecchiette per package instructions until al dente
- Drain Orecchiette and return it to the pot. Add 1/3 of the sausage-broccoli rabe sauce. Toss over high heat. When combined and hot, remove from heat and mound onto a platter or divide among 4 bowls. Top with the rest of the sauce and a generous sprinkle of Pecorino cheese.