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bowl of orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 12 reviews

  • Author: Lisa
  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x


A wonderful, flavorful pasta dish from New York's famous Italian restaurant Rao's. Orecchiette pasta with hot and sweet Italian sausages, garlic, broccoli rabe and Pecorino cheese. Easy to throw together and excellent for a special occasion.


Units Scale
  • 1 pound of broccoli rabe (1 bunch)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, (3-4) a mix of sweet and hot, to your taste, casings removed, cut or chopped into bite-size pieces.
  • 1 cup of broccoli rabe water - reserved from when you blanch the broccoli rabe
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • I pound of dried orecchiette pasta
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly-grated


  1. To blanch the broccoli rabe, fill a large bowl with ice water and set it aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut away a couple of inches of the thicker tough stems of the broccoli rabe, leaving the tender stems, buds and leaves. Cut or pull the leaves off the stems and tear the leaves into large pieces. Boil broccoli rabe for 2-3 minutes until it's bright green and the stems are crisp-tender. IMPORTANT: Reserve one cup of the cooking water. Drain broccoli rabe in a colander and quickly plunge it into the ice water to stop the cooking process. When cool, drain and set aside.
  2. To make the pan sauce, heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and sausages and sauté, stirring often, until the sausages are cooked through and browned in spots.
  3. Add the broccoli rabe to the skillet, along with the cup of broccoli rabe water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Turn heat to high and cook, stirring, until sauce is hot.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette per package instructions, until al dente (cooked through but still firm to the bite.)
  5. Drain Orecchiette and return it to its cooking pot. Add 1/3 of the sausage-broccoli rabe sauce and toss over high heat. When combined and hot, remove from heat and mound onto a platter or into individual bowls. Top with remaining sauce and a generous sprinkle of Pecorino cheese.


How to Prepare This Ahead of time:

  • Broccoli Rabe can be blanched up to a day ahead of time. Drain, cool and store, covered, in the fridge. Remember to reserve a cup of the blanching water and keep it covered in the fridge, as well.
  • The pan sauce can be prepared up to an hour ahead (or several hours head, if refrigerated). For best results, cook the pasta at the last minute. Heat the sauce gently while the pasta is cooking. Finish the recipe per the instructions in Step 5.

What to do if you forget to save the broccoli rabe water?

I'm including this tip because, as many times as I've made this recipe, there are still occasions that I forget to save that broccoli rabe water. If this happens to you, don't worry! You can use a cup of the pasta cooking water and the dish will still be absolutely delicious.

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian