Friday, December 31, 2010

Orecchiette with Sausage, Broccoli Rabe & Tomato

In the States, we tend to think of broccoli rabe and sausage with orecchiette as a dry or “unsauced” dish, but this version binds the ingredients together in a hearty tomato sauce, and I much prefer it this way. There’s something about the combination of sausage meat and broccoli rabe thrown against pasta that often falls flat for me. Here though, there is a deep savor and twang that I absolutely crave.

The beauty of this recipe is that if you buy good sausages, most of the flavor base is already built for you, and that means no chopping. I actually like to go one step further and use the sublime fennel sausages from Faicco’s Pork Store down in the West Village — one of the best deals in New York, if you ask my humble opinion — and then I don’t even have to include the fennel seeds.

This is what I make when I’m chilled to the bone and need something that will stick to my ribs and generally restore my faith in the world. The prep work is almost non-existent, which means that you can theoretically sit down and have a sip of something reviving while the sauce bubbles away on the stove.

If you ever make the sauce ahead of time (something I rarely have the foresight to do, but these sorts of ragus really do improve in the fridge over a couple of days and freeze well for a month) do yourself a favor and don’t add the broccoli rabe until just before serving. You want it bright green and fresh against the rich red of the sauce, and as soon as green vegetables come into contact with the acid in the tomatoes and wine, not to mention the prolonged exposure to the heat of the sauce, they start to brown. Another tip my friend Dana swears by comes from her Italian mother-in-law: cooking the broccoli rabe in chicken stock tempers the vegetable’s bitterness if it’s not something you care for.

Serves 4 - 6

* Extra virgin olive oil
* 4 fresh Italian sausages, skins removed
* 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
* 1 tsp fennel seeds
* crushed red pepper flakes to taste (they vary so much in heat – I’d start at 2 small pinches)
* 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
* 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
* ¼ tsp granulated sugar
* 1 glass red wine
* kosher salt
* freshly ground black pepper
* freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
* chicken stock for cooking the broccoli rabe (optional)
* 1 lb dry orecchiette
* 1 lb bunch broccoli rabe, bottom stalks trimmed and discarded, outer leaves removed, and remaining rabe cut into 3 inch lengths
* 2 handfuls freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese plus more for serving

Heat a large pan over high heat. Add a glug of extra virgin olive oil to coat and then crumble in the sausage meat. Reduce the heat to medium and use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat as it browns, turning once or twice. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and pour off the excess grease. Add a little more olive oil and then the crushed garlic cloves, fennel seed, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook a minute or two until the garlic has softened. Add back the sausage and stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar, and wine and return to the heat. Season with a little kosher salt (bear in mind that the parmigiano reggiano cheese you’ll add at the end is very salty), and some black pepper, bring to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat to low and allow to bubble away uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce gets too dry, add more wine or a little stock or water.

After 30 minutes, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, a little more sugar if the acid is too high, or even a spritz of lemon juice if you feel the flavor needs brightening. Continue to simmer uncovered over low heat partially covered.

Meanwhile boil some well-salted water for the pasta in a large pot and some more (or well-seasoned chicken stock) for the broccoli rabe in a medium pot. Toss in the orecchiette and boil, stirring occasionally, until par-cooked (about half-done). Drain and reserve. (Note: My orecchiette took about 4 minutes, but cooking time always varies according to brand). At the same time toss in the broccoli rabe and boil for 8 minutes or until just tender. Drain and immediately rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and preserve the beautiful green color. Remove the bay leaves and garlic cloves from the sausage ragu.

Heat the large pasta pot over medium heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil to coat the bottom and then the pasta. Add the sausage ragu and stir. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed some of the sauce. Press the cooked broccoli rabe against the side of a colander or sieve with the back of a cooking spoon to remove excess water. Stir into the pasta. Remove from the heat and stir in a couple of handfuls of grated parmigiano reggiano. Check the seasoning one last time with salt and pepper and maybe more lemon juice, and serve right away sprinkled with a little more cheese.

See the original post on Pixies Did It!


Toffeeapple said...

A guaranteed warming dish, thank you Amanda.

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

It makes good blizzard fare - I hope you enjoy!

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