I made this recipe at home last week and Isaac’s response was “please make again!” The recipe was sent by our friend, Bob Pastore, an Italian who knows what good food is and enjoys making it for family and friends. His wife Roxy, though not Italian by blood, is also an outstanding cook and has mastered Sunday “gravy” which is a staple in any true Italian home. It was out of this world. My mom is also a non-Italian woman who married an Italian man. How can you live up to the expectations or cooking standards of an Italian guy who has been spoiled by an Italian momma making him amazing wonderful dishes during his childhood?! After severals years of marriage my mom now makes my dad’s favorite spaghetti sauce. Because of my mom’s and Roxy’s Italian cooking chops, I am a firm believer that anyone who is willing to practice can master Italian dishes. Here is a great one to start off trying. Good luck! The more you cook Italian, the more you will wish Italian was truly in your blood!
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plain fine dried bread crumbs
2 Tbs. sea salt, plus more, to taste
1 1/2 lb. broccoli rabe, trimmed
1 lb. dried orecchiette
1/2 lb. Italian sweet fennel sausage, casings discarded and meat coarsely
4 large garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with the oil. Season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are an even, deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Pour onto a plate and let cool.
Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil and add the 2 Tbs. salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, testing often, until the stems are just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a wire-mesh skimmer, lift out the broccoli rabe into a sieve and cool it quickly under cold running water. Drain and squeeze gently to remove excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, in the fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the 1/3 cup olive oil. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and stir to combine with the sausage. Cook until the broccoli rabe is hot throughout, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
When the pasta is ready, scoop out and reserve about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sausage mixture and the cheese and stir and toss well over low heat to combine, adjusting the consistency with some of the cooking water, if needed.
Divide the pasta among warmed plates or shallow bowls, top each portion with a sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and serve immediately. Pass the remaining bread crumbs at the table. Serves 4 to 6.
From Williams & Sonoma
- I used broccolini instead of broccoli rabe because that is what my grocery had available. Broccolini is a member of the cabbage family whereas broccoli rabe is a member of the turnip fanily and is fairly bitter. Both are great options for this dish. Broccoli rabe is earthy and nutty. It is more bitter, but does become milder as it cooks. Broccolini is a long skinny vegetable where broccoli rabe has a thicker stalk and has big leaves.
- I use gragnano pasta because it is made from an area of Italy that allows the fresh pasta to dry in the mediterranean air. It soaks up sauce well and I find remains al dente.
- I love using extra pasta water to help thicken a sauce. The hot water is starchy and helps bind the sauce to the noodles.
- My favorite thing about Italian pasta dishes is that Italians use simple ingredients but try to use the best version of these ingredients. Real aged Parmesan Reggiano cheese, fresh sausage, good pasta, etc. Simple yet full of flavor.
Thank you Pastores!