Orecchiette with sausage and broccoli is a dish that I have been making for my family since my kids were toddlers and it was made for me by my Mom. Orecchiette means little ears in Italian and it makes the perfect shape for holding the olive oil sauce and has just the right amount of chew to make the dish interesting.
This is a classic Italian pasta recipe that is so easy to make, rustic and delicious. Exactly the type of cooking I prefer.
People would often ask me how I get my kids to eat vegetables since their kids would not and I would always tell them if you put garlic and olive oil on any veggie it just tastes amazing. Of course it doesn't hurt that there is some Parmesan cheese thrown in as well 🙂
This orecchiette recipe is wonderful Italian pasta recipe that is easy and healthy. I use regular durham wheat pasta but you can make it even healthier by using whole wheat pasta.
Using Italian Sausage in this Orecchiette and Broccoli Recipe:
I love making this orecchiette pasta with sweet or spicy Italian sausage (depending on if I want spicy or sweet). If you like Italian pasta recipes with sausage then this is a great option.
You do not have to use sausage in this recipe if you prefer a meatless meal. I do make it without the sausage and it tastes just as amazing.
You will want to make sure you remove the casing of the sausage before you cook it so the sausage crumbles and gets all nicely browned. To do this you want to remove the casings from the sausage and brown it up in the pan before adding your broccoli.
Variations for this Orecchiette Recipe:
For this orecchiette recipe, I use broccoli. You can also use broccolini or broccoli rabe in place of broccoli. I often will use broccolini which is just baby broccoli and it tastes delicious.
Broccoli rabe is a little more bitter so make sure you like that if you do decide to use it. I believe that broccoli was invented (cultivated) from combining broccoli rabe and cauliflower.
I am not sure if it was to get rid of the bitterness or for more practical purposes. Traditionally, Italians will use broccoli rabe for this dish though. The traditional Italian pasta dish is called Orecchiette and broccoli rabe.
Cooking broccoli rabe as a substitute:
If I use broccoli rabe, I make sure to cook it a bit longer than the broccoli and add a little more Parmesan cheese when serving to offset the bitterness. I will also add a squeeze of fresh lemon at the end of cooking.
To make the authentic Italian Orecchiette and Broccoli rabe, this is the way to go. I use whatever is available most often. I have used all of these broccoli variations with great success so I know they will all be delicious
Tips for this recipe:
I love when I have enough of this leftover for lunch or a quick dinner the next day. Honestly this doesn't happen often.
Re-heating this dish is very simple. I like to add individual portions to a bowl and place a moist paper towel over top. I use the microwave to re-heat it. You should need no more than 2-3 minutes to get it nice and hot.
Making it ahead of time
If I want to get a jump start on this recipe, I will prep my broccoli and garlic ahead of time. For the sausage, I will just remove the sausage from the casings and refrigerate so that part is ready. When it is time for dinner all I need to do is throw everything into a pan and cook.
Choosing your ingredients
When you are choosing your ingredients for this orecchiette with sausage and broccoli, make sure you use all great quality ingredients. When you have only a few ingredients in a recipe, they will stand out more. Do not skimp on the Parmesan either. Buy the real stuff which should say made in Italy!
If you have leftovers of this orecchiette pasta, let it come to almost room temperature and then place in a bowl with a tight fitting lid and place in your fridge. It will last for a few days.
Once you try it this, I know it will be a regular in your dinner rotation!
If you are looking for more delicious Italian pasta recipes you might like these:
- Italian Macaroni and Cheese
- Spaghetti with Pork Bolognese
- Pesto Pasta
- Carbonara with Roasted Cauliflower
- Pasta Aglio e Olio
Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli
- 1 large head of broccoli cleaned, stalks trimmed and cut into small florets
- 4 Italian sausage links (sweet, mild or hot) Optional. you can omit this if you want a meatless meal.
- 1 small Spanish onion or shallot optional
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 box of orecchiette pasta you can also use fusilli, ziti or penne
- ½ cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese
- ¼- ½ tsp red pepper flakes depending on how much heat you like. Most of the heat gets cooked out during the cooking process
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- ½ cup of pasta water reserved
- salt and pepper to taste about 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp pepper
- Place a large pot of water on stove to boil for the pasta
- Cut up head of broccoli into florets
- Finely dice garlic and thinly slice your onion
- Pour ½ of your olive oil into a saute pan over medium heat and add the red pepper flakes
- Now grab your sausages and with a sharp knife, make a cut through the casings. Remove the casings from the sausages and discard.
- Brown your sausage, breaking it up into pieces in the oil until brown and fully cooked.
- Add onions and saute for 5 minutes
- Add your garlic and cook another 2 minutes
- Once onions are cooked through and translucent, add the broccoli to the same pan and saute until the broccoli is tender (adding any extra olive oil if needed- broccoli soaks up olive oil so add more if the pan seems dry) about 8-10 minutes
- season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat to low
- When pasta water comes to a boil salt the water with a good handful of salt (like the saltiness of the ocean) and cook pasta according to directions until al dente
- When pasta is done reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then strain
- Add pasta to saute pan and mix pasta in with the broccoli until well combined and adding reserved pasta water if it looks to dry.
- Plate your pasta and finish with a generous sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese.