Fall farmers' markets are packed with produce right now. Apples, pears, cabbages, potatoes, and bitter greens stock the stands. This is a great time to try vegetables that you may have been avoiding. Kale, chard, and broccoli rabe are some of the lovely greens you will find around this time. Cooking with them in the correct way brings out their hearty flavors. I love bitter greens, but it wasn't always that way. A homey Italian dish changed my mind.
Spicy sausage, broccoli rabe, and pasta make an unbeatable combination. This dish is so satisfying and simple and the sauce is just pasta water and grated Parmesan cheese. Traditionally the recipe is made with orecchiette, pasta shaped like little ears, but many other small shapes work well. When the meal is ready, top it with more grated Parmesan cheese for good measure. It's a healthy meal that's quick to put together and a great way to enjoy broccoli rabe.
The Italians call it rapini or broccoli di rape. Here in the states it can be spelled two ways as broccoli rabe or broccoli raab. It's in the same family as cabbages and turnips and looks like small broccoli florets with big leaves. For some it may be too bitter on its own, but blanching can take care of that. When combined in a pasta dish like this, I think broccoli rabe really shines.
Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Crumbled Sausage
1 16-ounce package orecchiette, conchiglie, or rotini
fine sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound broccoli rabe, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Cook pasta until al dente, a few minutes short of package directions, in liberally salted water. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water.
While pasta cooks, warm oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add sausage and crumble into small pieces; cook until browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add broccoli rabe and reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add cooked pasta and combine. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until half the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in parmesan until a thin sauce forms. Serve with additional cheese. Yield: 6 servings.