Pasta with Sausage and Broccolini or Broccoli Rabe is a classic Italian dish, and it’s popular for a reason! It’s flavorful, quick, and comes together with simple ingredients. Plus, it’s a great way to use up seasonal greens. This dish is made with Orecchiette, a dried pasta named after its shape, which resembles a little ear. It’s a bite-sized pasta and here, it cradles caramelized bits of sausage, bright broccolini, and creamy parmesan. I add lemon zest and juice and to bump up the flavor and it’s next level. You know I love a lemony bite in a savory recipe! Add this recipe to your dinner rotation stat.
This dish comes together with a few simple steps, which makes it weeknight-friendly. To make, you’ll cook ground Italian sausage in a dutch oven or skillet until browned, then saute onions and garlic in the same pan for added flavor. While the sausage and aromatics cook, you’ll boil water in another pot to quickly cook the broccolini, and then you’ll cook your pasta in the same water. Once everything is ready, toss it all together with lemon zest and juice, as well as grated parm and pasta water for creaminess. Be sure to check out my notes on riffs, swaps, and subs under the recipe details – perhaps it’ll save you a trip to the store or provide some inspiration on ways to make it your own!
Pasta with Broccolini, Sausage, + Lemon
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb Fresh Sweet Italian sausage
- 1 lb Broccolini/baby broccoli/ broccoli rabe
- 1 Cup diced yellow onion about ½ medium onion
- 3 Cloves garlic diced
- 1 lb Orecchiette pasta
- Zest of 1 small lemon about 2.5 teaspoons
- Juice of ½ small lemon more if desired
- ¾ cups grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- Up to 2 cups of pasta water
- Kosher salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
- Trim the tougher ends of the broccolini stems off, about 2 inches or so, and discard. Roughly chop the rest of the broccolini, set aside.
- While the water comes to a boil, in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground sausage, break up with a wooden spoon, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Use a wooden spoon to move the cooked sausage to the edge of the pot, and add onion. Add another glug of olive oil if needed and season generously with kosher salt. Saute the onions for several minutes until soft, stirring occasionally to lift up the caramelized brown bits in the pot. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about a minute. The sausage should be golden brown, and the onions and garlic should be soft. Turn off the heat entirely and set aside.
- When the water is boiling, add the broccolini and cook in water for about 2-3 minutes. Use a wire mesh skimmer, handheld strainer, or tongs, remove the broccolini from the water, and transfer into a colander to let the broccolini cool and set aside (save the water for your pasta).
- Bring the water back up to a boil, and cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, as you'll finish cooking the pasta in the other pot with the sausage. Before you drain the pasta, set aside 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, which makes the base of your sauce.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to pot with sausage, onion, garlic, as well as the cooked broccolini and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes to incorporate all ingredients, stirring constantly.
- Add 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water, lemon zest, lemon juice, grated parmesan cheese, and toss for a minute or two, until ingredients are incorporated and the pasta water has reduced slightly to make a creamy sauce. Season with more lemon juice, grated parm, and kosher salt to taste. If pasta needs to be saucier, add the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and stir until creamy.
- Serve while warm and top with more grated parmesan cheese, and cracked black pepper.
- Optional: Add crushed red chili flakes for a little heat and toasted breadcrumbs for crunch before serving.
A FEW NOTES ON RIFFS:
- The Sausage: Use fresh ground bulk Italian sausage or fresh Italian sausage links and take them out of the casing before cooking. Swap in spicy Italian sausage if you prefer. Chicken or turkey sausage work as well. In a pinch, any ground meat plus a few generous pinches of Italian seasoning will get the job done, too. I typically stay away from pre-cooked sausage here because it doesn’t lend itself to crumbling, but if that’s what you’ve got, give it a really rough chop before cooking.
- The Broccolini: Broccoli Rabe, Baby Broccoli or Broccolini are recommended. Swap in regular broccoli if desired. Kale is also in the brassica family, and chopped lacinato kale works here very well in this recipe – to use it, remove leafy greens from the stems, give them a rough chop, and add them to the skillet after the onions.
- The Pasta: Orchiette is standard and preferred – it’s shape perfectly cradles the creamy sauce and catches little pieces of broccoli and sausage in every bite. If needed, use any short pasta with nooks and crannies instead, such as fusili, rigatoni, casarecce, small shells, conchigle, or trumpets.
- The Onions + Garlic: Sub in leeks, red onion, or shallot in place of yellow onion if you’ve got ‘em.
TIME SAVING TIPS:
- Omit the onions and garlic entirely if you’re hangry and looking for a faster recipe.
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