Even though this dish is traditionally from the Puglia region of Italy, and this is the region where my father’s family originated, I have no memories of anyone on this side of the family ever making this dish. Even the pasta shape, orecchiette, is a home-made pasta typical of this region. I’m sure you already know that orecchiette means small ear, which if you dig deep into your imagination, you might see a resemblance. So this traditional Pugliese dish never entered my life until it began appearing on menus in Italian restaurants. It quickly became a favorite of mine. However, I never made it myself at home. I think the reason for this is that my husband is not a fan of orecchiette, so instead we often make broccoli rabe with spaghetti and no sausage (I’m not a big fan of sausage). By the way, you can find that recipe in this blog under the pasta category.
One day when I was watching Lydia Bastianich’s cooking show on TV, she was making this traditional Pugliese dish, and I decided to copy down the recipe. Maybe one night I would give it a try? The recipe stayed untouched for at least 2 years. Then, to my surprise, my husband decided to make his version of this dish….even using orecchiette. I watched him carefully, comparing what he was doing to Lydia’s recipe. Why didn’t I just give him the recipe I had written down? If you knew him, you wouldn’t have to ask that question. He NEVER uses a recipe. NEVER! And his culinary creations are always amazing, so I was confident that I would be absolutely delighted with his version of this dish, but I still was curious to see if he and Lydia were on the same page, so to speak. It was indeed very similar to hers, and of course, scrumptious. I don’t know how he does it!
I’m going to share his recipe with you, but I’ll let you know what Lydia did differently. You can try both ways, and decide for yourself which recipe you like better. It’s a “win/win” situation.
RECIPE: serves 4
1 pound of orecchiette
2 small bunches of broccoli-rabe
1 pound Italian sweet sausage
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper (more or less to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Italian cheese…Romano or Parmesan.
1. Wash and roughly cut the broccoli rabe.
2. Brown the sausage in a fry pan with a tablespoon or two of water. Then remove from the pan and slice. (Lydia skips this step).
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the broccoli rabe and cook for 3-5 minutes. It should still be firm. Remove from water and drain. (Lydia skips this step).
4. Heat the oil and garlic in a large fry pan. Add the red pepper. (Here Lydia adds the sausage, removed from it’s casing and crumbled. Cook until it is cooked through.)
5. When the garlic is golden brown, Add the broccoli rabe (Lydia adds it here, not par-boiled) ) and sliced sausage. Stir well to combine.
6. Add salt to taste. (Lydia added some pasta water and covered the pan for a few minutes to cook the broccoli rabe).
7. Meanwhile cook the orecchiette in the boiling water. Cook until al dente and drain, reserving some pasta water.
8. Add the orecchiette and some pasta water to the pan with the broccoli-rabe. Cook over low flame for a minute or two to mix well.
9. Add grated Italian cheese and serve.