Orecchiette with Broccolini & Italian Sausage

Orecchiette with Broccolini & Italian Sausage

A quick, satisfying pasta dish.

Tonight’s dinner is a lovely, frugal pasta dish. Pulled together in less than 45 minutes, this one doesn’t even require making a separate “sauce.” That means there’s little clean-up. Is that ever a bad thing?

Over the weekend, we stocked up on a few pasta varieties – orecchiette (little ears), papardelle (think wide fettucine), and mezzaluna filled with with gorgonzola (can you tell we like blue cheese?).

After tossing around a few possible pasta ideas, I decided to pick up some sweet, tender broccolini to use with some of our favorite Italian turkey sausage links and the orecchiette. Many similar recipes I’ve looked at lately call for broccoli rabe – a green, leafy vegetable featuring bitter greens and small clusters resembling broccoli heads. Since Italian sausages are typically dominantly seasoned with fennel or anise, I wanted to use a milder complementary vegetable in this dish.

I love the “cup” or “ear” shape of this pasta because it holds other ingredients so well. In Italian, “orecchio” means “ear,” and the suffix “etto” translates to “small.” Aren’t they cute?

The perfect bite of tonight’s dinner consisted of a crumble of spicy sausage, a crisp piece of broccolini, and a couple morsels of al dente pasta. The Parmesan, ricotta, and small amount of pasta water envelope the pasta in a creaminess that makes you forget about any sort of alfredo or red sauce. We loved it!

1/2 lb. Italian turkey sausage links, casing removed
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch broccolini, cut into 1″ pieces
1 lb. orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbs. whole milk ricotta cheese
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper to taste
*Optional: 1/2 cup pasta water

Cook the broccolini in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about one minute. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water to cool, saving the cooking water. Bring the reserved cooking water back to a boil for the pasta.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned and juices form, about 12 minutes. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, when the reserved cooking water is boiling, add the orecchiette and cook until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Strain the broccolini and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture and toss to coat with the juices. Add the pasta to the skillet. Stir in the Parmesan and ricotta. To loosen the existing “sauce” you can also add a little bit of reserved pasta water to your taste.

Orecchiette with Broccolini & Italian Sausage

Red pepper flakes and spices from the Italian sausage give this dish the perfect amount of heat.

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3 thoughts on “Orecchiette with Broccolini & Italian Sausage

  1. How coincidental. i have just returned from the market with orecchiette and italian sausages. To be transformed into a tomato based pasta dish for dinner tonight. Have to love cucina povera. .Can’t think of a simpler or tastier way to eat.

  2. […] vegetables is the cruciferous delight known as broccolini.  You may remember seeing it in my orchechiette pasta dish, accompanied by sweet Italian sausage and nutty parmesan cheese.  While its name sort of suggests […]

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