Orecchiette is a traditional type of pasta from the region of Puglia or Apulia, in the south of Italy. The name orecchiette (pronounced aw-rehk-kyet-tay) comes from the small and round shape of the pasta and it means “small ears”.
The Italian cookbook Il cucchiaio d'argento (beautifully translated in 2005 into English as The Silver Spoon by the British publisher Phaidon) recommends orecchiette as the perfect pasta for vegetable sauces.
In this recipe I used sausage and broccolini, a hybrid of broccoli that has become very popular in the U.S. In Italy I would use cime di rapa (literally turnip tops) or rapini (broccoli rabe). The sausage can be of any type, but I do not recommend a spicy one, because it would end up overpowering the flavor of the broccolini.
Ingredients and Instructions:
- 1 pound of orecchiette pasta
- 2 garlic cloves, quartered
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 pound of broccolini
- 2 sausage links, any type
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- Wash the broccolini and roughly chop the stalks, leaving the tops and florets whole.
- Over medium heat, in a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Let the garlic sauté just for a few seconds to release its flavor into the oil, then add the red pepper flakes and mix well.
- Add the broccolini to the pan, sprinkle with the salt, stir and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the 1/2 cup of water, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for another 3 minutes, until the broccolini become tender and with a vibrant green color. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- In another pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and break it up with a spoon. Cook the sausage meat for about 5 minutes or until browned but still juicy. Leaving any excess fat in the pan, remove the sausage and transfer it into the broccolini pan. Return to the fire, mix well and cook just for an extra minute to combine all the beautiful flavors.
- Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add a generous tablespoon of salt, stir then add the orecchiette pasta all at once and stir again. Cook until al dente.
- Drain the orecchiette, transfer into the pan with the sausage and broccolini and toss, so as to completely coat the pasta with the sauce. (If the pan you use is not large enough to accommodate and combine the pasta with the sauce, use a large pasta bowl for this step, but make sure to warm it up first with a bit of the pasta water)
- Serve immediately topping each dish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Enjoy and buon appetito!
Cinzia Aversa, 2014