If you’re a pasta-lover and you missed the carbs from last week’s eggplant lasagna recipe, then you’re going to love this one! Since I haven’t yet made a pasta for the blog, I knew I wanted to start with one of my favourites: orecchiette with sausage and rapini.
This is one of my absolute favourite pasta dishes, second only to carbonara (which I will attempt to make one day, when I muster the courage). Because of its shape, this pasta is called “orecchiette” which means “small ears” in Italian. And, just like its meaning, this dish is EAR-resistible (sorry, but you know I have to try to make at least one food pun per recipe post)!
The beauty of this recipe, just like all good Italian food, is that it’s so simple! The focus is on a few good quality ingredients, rather than making something super elaborate. In other words, my kind of meal! Instead of fresh pasta, I used a good quality dried orecchiette from Rustichella d’Abruzzo. I picked it up at Pasta Mia in St. Lawrence Market. Other than cooking time, there would be no significant difference between using dried, as opposed to fresh, pasta in this dish, so long as you buy high quality pasta.
I bought a good quality mild Italian sausage from a butcher at St. Lawrence Market. Sweet Italian sausage could also work well – but don’t buy anything frozen! You’ll want to cut into the sausage and remove from the casing to crumble in the skillet when browning. I just love the texture of the sausage, which I couldn’t help but munch on after browning (so maybe buy a couple extra sausages)!
This was also my first time using my new stainless steel stockpot with pasta insert from Le Creuset. It was the perfect vessel for this job! Not only did I use it to blanch the rapini in first, but also to cook the pasta, using the same water. No need to dirty two different pots. Make sure to lift the pasta insert quickly and well above the stockpot when draining, using a cloth or oven mitts on both handles. The steam can rise up quickly from underneath and you want to avoid getting burned.
I loved using this stockpot and pasta insert because I could drain the pasta and retain the pasta water. I used some of the pasta water when combining the orecchiette, sausage and rapini in a skillet. It helped de-glaze the bottom of the skillet, so I could incorporate all the yummy sausage bits and drippings.
All this talk about pasta is making me hungry again! Here is the recipe – I hope you guys enjoy! You can also scroll to the bottom for more photos of this delicious dish!
Orecchiette with Sausage & Rapini
- 250 g Orecchiette pasta
- 4 whole mild Italian sausages removed from casings
- 3/4 head rapini
- 1/2 cup grana padano cheese you could also use grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino cheese
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp salted or unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic chopped or minced finely
- kosher or sea salt to taste
- Bring a large stockpot of cold water to a boil. Add rapini and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Strain rapini and immediately cold water shock to stop the cooking process, by adding to an ice bath, or running freezing cold water over top.
- Using the same water as you blanched the rapini, cook pasta until al dente (about 12-15 minutes). You can add 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil to the water and 2-3 tbsp. of salt. Strain when finished cooking, but retain pasta water.
- In the meantime, add 3 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and crumble into the skillet. Brown the sausage, using a wooden spoon to stir and break into smaller pieces. When finished browning, transfer sausage from skillet into a plate or bowl and set aside.
- Dry the rapini using paper towel and chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Add butter to the skillet and brown (but don't burn) the butter. Add garlic and saute for a few minutes until the garlic is translucent and brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Return the sausage to the skillet and add rapini. Saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add 2 ladles of pasta water to the skillet to de-glaze. Add pasta and cheese, and saute in skillet to combine all the ingredients together.
- Remove from heat and serve immediately. You can grate additional cheese over top before serving. Enjoy!
*Disclaimer: the stockpot with pasta insert was gifted to me by Le Creuset. However, all opinions in this blog post are completely my own.