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Monday, June 3, 2013

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

Edited June 4th 2013 @ 10:15am
A friend left me an email late last night saying that I may have mistaken something else for the broccoli rabe in this post. Even as I clicked on the link within the mail and read the Wikipedia page on broccoli rabe (which I had read once before I actually set out to hunt for my first ever bundle of broccoli rabe or rapini), I was still pretty convinced (but very panicky) that I had got the right broccoli rabe. So I went through a quick mental checklist. The broccoli rabe has...

  • a different appearance from the regular broccoli CHECK
  • baby florets and long stalks  CHECK & CHECK
  • a similarity in shape to the Chinese kailan CHECK
  • ruffled, spiked leaves surrounding the florets Hmm, I don't remember seeing much of these in that bundle of greens that I bought...
  • a delicate bitterness Erm... definitely not. Those of mine were actually sweet! Oopsssss


So I went on to check on something else - baby broccoli. Uh-oh... it was indeed baby broccoli or broccolini that I had gotten myself that day. Here's a link to a neat description of broccolini, a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kailan. 

And here's a link to a page that compares all three - broccoli, broccolini and broccoli rabe; and another one here that does a real great job at clearing the air.

Here I am with a confession to make - I have got it all so wrong! It really should have been broccoli rabe in place of the broccolini used in this recipe. Pardon me, my huge mistake! 

And here's to you, Huey Fang! Thank you for pointing it out to me!



I recently added this book to my cookbook collection - the MasterChef Cookbook. Browsing the new and barely 2-month-old bookstore here in the neighborhood (which by the way, where have all the bookstores gone?), it didn't take me long to decide that I wanted this. Love at first sight? Pretty much yea! It features the recipes to the many winning dishes by the final 14 contestants and judges - Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot.

And what really caught my attention with just a very brief flip-through was how they each comes with neat instructions and real attractive photos - that even as an amateur, these are the scrumptious dishes that you can always try creating at home rather easily.


Even before I actually paid for the book and officially made it mine, I had already started bookmarking the pages mentally - "Woo, the Egg in Purgatory!", "Egg en Cocotte with Mushrooms and Brioche Toast!" (and there I gestured for my hubby to come over with a "psst" and we started salivating over the food photography together), pasta! (and you'll be surprised how even the simplest kind like the Linguini Aglio e Olio looks so much greater and made to sound totally doable in the book) and a whole range of seafood! The book is that good! Well at least it is at first glance...


This Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage marked the first recipe that I tried out of the book. I have never had anything close to this before, so what made me choose this over everything else in the book must have been its simplicity and how it looks so attractive despite having just three real simple ingredients - the pasta, broccoli rabe and the Italian sausage.

A recipe courtesy of Joe Bastianich, I would say that it is indeed a simple dish at its best! Quoting his actual words from the book -

"An outstanding dish shouldn't be overly complex. Often the best ones are made with only a handful of ingredients. For example, this pasta recipe contains little more than broccoli rabe and sausage. The delicious simplicity of authentic Italian food is what we are looking for. When you think you have enough ingredients, take two out!". 


And simple and outstanding this dish sure is!

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage 
Adapted from the recipe by Joe Bastianich
Source: MasterChef Cookbook by JoAnn Cianciulli
Serves 2
1/2lb dry orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta)
1/2lb broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
3 sweet Italian pork or chicken sausages
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste




1. Cut the sausages on the bias into 1/2" slices. Set aside.


2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (you will need at least 1 quart of salted water for every 1/4lb of dry pasta). Fill a large bowl of iced cold water and set aside. Add the broccoli rave to the pot and cook for 4 minutes, or until the spears turn slightly tender but looking bright green still. Be sure not to overcook them.
3. Reserving the pot of salted water, transfer the rabe to the bowl of cold water and let chill. Once cooled down enough to be handled with hands, remove from the water bath and cut into 1" sections. Set aside.
4. Return the pot of salted water to boil. Add the orecchiette and stir to prevent them from sticking to one another. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.


5. Coat a large skillet with the extra-virgin olive oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil has been well heated, arrange the sausage pieces in a single layer. Leave undisturbed for about 2 to 3 minutes until they are nicely browned on the bottom.
6. Flip them over to pan fry the other side, again for another 2 to 3 minutes until thoroughly cooked.


7. Transfer the sausage to a bowl and set aside.
8. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Stir for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the reserved broccoli rabe, season with salt and pepper, and stir for about a minute.
9. Add the sausage back to the pan, along with the orecchiette. Toss to mix the contents well, adding reserved cooking liquid if the pasta seems too dry.


10. Sprinkle with cheese and serve hot.

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