As a gal who is not a fan of broccoli, and that's putting it mildly, I have to say I was a bit wary of making this recipe. After doing a little research, however, I discovered broccoli rabe is not actually related to broccoli at all! According to Wikipedia, "the vegetable probably descends from a wild herb, a relative of the turnip, that grew either in China or the Mediterranean region." It is most popular in the cuisines of Southern Italy (in particular Bari and Sicily), Galicia, China, and Portugal. There was hope after all!
I had tried broccoli rabe a long time ago and remembered it as having a bitter flavor. According to the chair of the JLBR Cookbook Committee, Alison Gatto who is a fabulous cook, a great way to minimize the bitterness is to blanch it in boiling water before adding it to your pasta recipe. I wished I had spoken with her before I made this recipe! While I enjoyed the other ingredients including zucchini, sausage, and especially cheese, the broccoli rabe was a little too intense for my taste - bitter with a nutty, herbal flavor. Now, if you happen to be a fan of broccoli rabe you will probably really enjoy this recipe, as my husband did - not a bite left in his pasta bowl!
With this dish we drank a 2008 La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna, a light Italian white wine with a racy acidity and citrusy, herbal flavors. It went well with the broccoli rabe and cut through the richness of the sausage. Vermentino is an aromatic white grape varietal of Spanish origin that is found throughout Sardinia and is also grown in Liguria, Corsica, Madeira and southern France.
So for all you fans of broccoli rabe, here is a recipe for you - Buon Appetito!
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage (pg. 204)**
16 ounces uncooked orecchiette or ziti
8 ounces sausage
2 medium onions, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound broccoli rabe
2 large garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces carrots, julienned
2 small zucchini, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta using the package directions. Remove 1 cup of the cooking liquid; keep the pasta warm.
Brown the sausage with the onions in the heated olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, stirring until the sausage is crumbly. Stir in the 1 cup reserved cooking liquid. Add the broccoli rabe and garlic and cook for 4 minutes. Add the carrots, zucchini, salt and pepper. Cook, covered, over high heat for 5 minutes.
Drain the pasta, Combine with the sausage mixture in a bowl and toss to mix well. Top with the cheese. Serves six
**Better me than you preparation tips:
- I used spicy Italian sausage - yum!
- Be sure not to drain the pasta until right before combining with the sausage mixture.
- I left out the carrot - I am not a fan of carrots in pasta, personal preference.