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Orecchiette and Broccoli

Orecchiette and Broccoli

Orecchiette 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 dish 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 and broccoli 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 also like to change things up and make this dish 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 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.

Another variation is to 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 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 with Orecchiette and broccoli rabe.

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. If you want to be authentic, this is the way to go. I use whatever is available most often and have used all of these broccoli variations with great success.

Once you try it this, I know it will be a regular in your dinner rotation!

Italian Pasta recipe- Orecchiette and broccoli

If you are looking for more delicious Italian pasta recipes you might like these:

Orecchiette with Broccoli

A classic Italian pasta dish from Southern Italy
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 large head of broccoli cleaned, stalks trimmed and cut into small florets
  • 4 Italian sausage links (sweet, mild or hot) Optional. This is if you want to add sausage to your dish
  • 1 small Spanish onion or shallot optional
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 box of orecchiette pasta you can also use fusilli, ziti or penne
  • 1/2 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/4- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes depending on how much heat you like. Most of the heat gets cooked out during the cooking process
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of pasta water reserved
  • salt and pepper to taste about 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 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 1/2 of your olive oil into a saute pan over medium heat and add the red pepper flakes
  • If you are using sausage, 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.
  • Enjoy!

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