This sauce is a specialty of Apulia. Both the sharp, bitter flavor of broccoli rabe and its vitamins are best preserved by steaming, but if you prefer a milder flavor, as Julia Della Croce does, blanch it first. When you drain the broccoli rabe, reserve the cooking wateryou can use it to boil the pasta.
The traditional pasta shapes used here are orcchiette (little ears), gnocchetti (little gnocchi) and cavatelli, which are ridged elongated pasta shells. Cook and drain one pound of pasta, leaving it very moist. Toss the pasta with the sauce and one-quarter cup of extra-virgin olive oil.
Plus: Pasta Recipes and Tips
2 pounds broccoli rabe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
How to Make It
Wash the broccoli rabe thoroughly and remove any yellow leaves. Trim the stems. Using a small sharp knife, peel any thick, tough stems. Rinse and drain. Coarsely chop into 1-inch pieces. Bring 4 1/2 quarts of water to a rolling boil, salt the water and add the broccoli rabe. Cover partially, return to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
In a large, deep, nonreactive skillet, warm the olive oil. Add the sausage meat and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and the reserved cooking water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
This zesty dish needs a refreshing but assertive red that can balance the attractive bitter-salty flavors. Not surprisingly, there are a number of flavorful Italian reds that will work well in this context, among them Chianti Classico.
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