Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Spicy Italian Sausage, and Gremolata

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of white wine (plus, more for drinking)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (minced finely, or use garlic press)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • ½ cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup of gremolata (see recipe below)
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound of orecchiette pasta (or, cavatelli) NOTE: Do NOT use shells, or other flimsy pasta, as it will break in the dish. It NEEDS to be a sturdy pasta that can soak up the broth and infuse flavor into the pasta.

Gremolata Ingredients:

  •  1 ½ cups of plain breadcrumbs (not Italian)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup of fresh Italian parsley (chopped finely)
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.) Trim away about 3-4 inches of the broccoli rabe stems and rinse, thoroughly.

2.) In a large sauté pan, on very low heat, combine olive oil, butter, minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté  for a few minutes so the garlic and hot pepper infuse the oil. Turn heat to medium and add the sausage and crumble. Cook sausage thoroughly.

3.) Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken broth and wine, then add the rinsed broccoli rabe. Cover and allow liquid to boil.

4.) Once liquid is boiling, turn down to a low simmer and allow broccoli rabe to steam down for about 15-20 minutes (turning every few minutes.) At this point, add salt and pepper, to taste.

5.) Meanwhile, to prepare gremolata, in a heavy-bottom sauce pan, on very low heat, add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir for about 2 minutes to infuse flavors in the oil.

6.)  Add about 1 cup of the bread crumbs, lemon zest, and parsley. Stir thoroughly to incorporate all the oil mixture with the breadcrumbs. If the mixture is still too “oily,” just add a bit more breadcrumbs. After about 5 minutes (while stirring constantly) the mixture will be golden brown and crispy.  Add salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

7.) After about 20 minutes of the broccoli rabe simmering, add about ½ cup of the gremolata mixture and toss to incorporate. This will thicken the broth mixture, slightly.  Also, add the grated Pecorino Romano cheese and toss again. The broth should now have a little body to it.

8.) Prepare orecchiette in liberally salted water. Once pasta is cooked to el dente, drain and add pasta to the broccoli rabe, starting with one quarter of the pasta at a time.  Allow pasta to cook a little longer in the mixture to pick up the flavors and blossom (about 5 minutes).

9.) Serve with more gremolata as topping, additional grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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