Orecchiette with Italian sausage and Broccoli Rabe

There are a lot of versions of this dish, and you can use a few different kinds of pasta. I learned this version from Janet Fletcher when I was working at the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s a forgiving recipe. Just remember to save a lot of pasta water to help keep it saucy at the end.

1½ to 2 pounds broccoli rabe
1 lb. orecchiette
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Three large garlic cloves, minced 

Pinch of hot pepper flakes
A half pound of hot Italian sausages, preferably with fennel seed
Salt
Freshly grated pecorino cheese, but parmesan will do

Directions: 

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Remove the tough stems from the broccili rabe and add to the boiling water to ger the bitterness out. Cook only about three minutes. Removed to a strainer and run under cold water. Drain well, and then squeeze gently to remove excess water. Chop coarsely.

2. Throw the pasta in the boiling water. Cook until al dente.

3. While the pasta is cooking, put the olive oil, garlic, and the hot pepper flakes in a large skillet. Remove the sausage from its casing if necessary and add it to a cold skillet. Warm over moderately low heat, breaking up the sausage with a fork, and cook just until the sausage loses most of its pinkness. Add the broccoli rabe and season with salt to taste.

4. Stir to coat with the seasonings and reheat gently.

5. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot over low heat. Add the sauce and toss well, moistening with some of the reserved pasta water as needed.

6. Divide among warm bowls, add cheese and serve immediately. Pass more cheese at the table. 

Serves 6.

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