I don’t know about you but when I “finish” writing an entry, I will return to it, editing and re-editing, right up until the minute it’s posted. Even then, I often make changes to it once it’s been published. A few months ago, in an effort to curtail my madness, I started posting my entries at the same time every Wednesday just to give myself a deadline for these corrections. Why do I mention this?
Well, I’ll be writing this entry before I leave for my visit with Zia and family and it will be posted about the time I’m heading back to Chicago. That means I’ll have a week to look at it with little chance to make corrections because of the sorry state of that area’s internet coverage. (If Dante’s Inferno had included a Tenth Circle in Hell, surely this would have been it.) So, I’m going to keep this post relatively short, hopefully keeping my errors to a minimum and, therefore, saving myself much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I should be spending that time visiting with my Zia.
Last week I showed you how to make orecchiette, an ear-shaped pasta that comes to us from the Puglia (Apulia) region of Italy. At the time, I said I would share today’s recipe, a traditional pugliese dish featuring orecchiette, sausage, and broccoli rabe (rapini). This is another simple dish with the flavors of its 3 main ingredients in perfect balance. Although you can certainly alter the quantities to suit your own tastes, try to keep that balance in mind. The dish also offers a little heat because of the red pepper flakes. If you use a spicy sausage here, you may wish to reduce the amount of these flakes or eliminate them altogether. On the other hand, I use my family’s sausage recipe, which is quite mild, so I add a healthy amount of red pepper flakes to the dish. The rest of the recipe is easy enough to follow but be sure to check out the Variations below if, perish the thought, you don’t care for broccoli rabe.
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Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
- 1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 oz Italian sausage
- red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 10 oz broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped
- grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 cup + a couple tbsp of pasta water
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- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, to be used to cook the orecchiette. Time the pasta so that it is cooked about a minute shy of al dente, per package instructions, at about the same time that the rest of the ingredients are finished sautéing.
- Meanwhile, in a large deep frying pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the sausage meat and use a wooden spoon to break the meat into smaller pieces as it sautés.
- Once the meat has browned, about 5 minutes, add the onion & pepper flakes and continue sautéing until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes more.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute.
- Add the broccoli rabe to the pan with a little pasta water and continue sautéing until rabe is done to your liking.
- Drain the orecchiette and add it to the frying pan along with the cup of pasta water, using it to deglaze the pan. Finish cooking the orecchiette in the pan as the “sauce” reduces to the consistency you prefer.
- Remove to a serving platter, garnished with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.
For many, broccoli rabe is just a bit too bitter to be enjoyed as-is. If you find it that way, there are alternatives. In the first place, you might try blanching the vegetable in boiling water for a minute before plunging it into an ice bath. To prevent the oil from splattering, pat the rabe with paper towels before adding it to the frying pan in Step 5 above. If you like, you can save the blanching water, salt it, and use it to cook the orecchiette.
What if you just don’t like broccoli rabe and no amount of blanching is going to make it palatable for you? Well then, you might try substituting one of its relatives. Pictured above are broccoli on the left, broccoli rabe on the right, and the newest member of the family, broccolini, in the center. Although often called “baby broccoli”or “asparation”, broccolini is actually a cross between broccoli and a Chinese broccoli called kai-lan. Like broccoli, broccolini has no leaves and is not as bitter as rabe. Either cousin would make a great substitute for broccoli rabe in this dish.
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By any other name …
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