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: Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut away thicker tough stems of the broccoli rabe, leaving the tender stems, buds and leaves. Tear leaves into large pieces. Boil broccoli rabe for 2-3 minutes until it’s bright green and the stems are crisp-tender. Reserve one cup of the cooking water. Drain broccoli rabe in a colander and quickly plunge it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. When cold, drain and set aside.
Make the Sauce: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped garlic, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and sausages. Sauté, stirring often, until the sausages are cooked through and browned in spots.
Add broccoli rabe to the sausage mixture, along with the cup of broccoli rabe water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper or more, to taste. Turn heat to high and cook, stirring, until sauce is hot.
Meanwhile, cook orecchiette pasta 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.
WANT TO PREP THIS AHEAD? 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.
Keywords: orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, Rao's sausage pasta recipe,