Some combinations are pure classics. There’s cookies and milk, peanut butter and jelly, Sonny and Cher ( did I just go there??) and tomato and mozzarella just to name a few. Let me add the very southern Italian combination of bitter earthy greens with sweet fennel sausage, garlic and oil mixed with pasta. It’s heaven. Something really wonderful happens when you mix them together. The origins of this dish lie somewhere in Puglia and Basilicata where the toothsome water and flour pastas are traditionally paired like cavatelli and orecchiette. Dried pastas work well also but most important is the shape. You want something that’s going to cup or grab onto the bits of rabe and sausage so stick with orecchiette, medium shells, cavatelli, garganelli(shown in this recipe), Cavatappi, pipette. Ready for a trip to Southern Italy? Ok. No passport necessary just a stove and a hungry group to feed and we will take them all to Puglia or Basilicata in Italy. Let’s cook!
Feeds 4-5. Time: about 45 minutes
1 lb cavatelli or orecchiette or garganelli or pipette or medium shells or Cavatappi. Cooked to al dente according to the package instructions
1 lb sweet Italian fennel pork sausage out of the casings or if using Luganega ( thinner rope sausage) just cut into small pieces
1 lb chopped and blanched broccoli rabe.
3 cloves of garlic sliced
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp peperoncino
1/8 cup white wine
Pecorino Romano grated
Half fresh lemon
After you’ve chopped and blanched the broccoli Rabe in salted water drain and reserve. Use that water to cook the pasta. Don’t let it go down the drain. Place a colander over a pot to collect the broccoli rabe infused water.
In a large wide pan add 1/2 the olive oil. Then the sausage and cook this whole moving it around the pan for at least 8 minutes. Now add the peperoncino and the garlic and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine, mix, then add the broccoli rabe and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and everything is soft and the sausage is cooked. Season with a little salt. Now add the drained pasta and mix well cook for 5 minutes on low. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and turn off the heat. Add 1/8 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Ricotta Salata cheese and mix. Squeeze the Lemon over the pasta and mix again. Serve with extra pecorino and peperoncino on the side. What a dish!!! For those who don’t care for the bitterness of broccoli rabe substitute Swiss chard or spinach or regular broccoli florets.