This One Pot Sausage and Broccoli pasta is giving me all the feels!
This sausage and broccoli pasta has a cool story. I promise. A few years ago I was teaching groups of Italian teenagers from Bari. If any of you have any experience with teenagers, you will know they are not easy to get to talking; they do not volunteer to answer questions and when asked directly, the most common answer is “it depends”. Sigh. Not a good combination when you are trying to teach them speaking English. Everyone likes talking about food though, especially when you are away from home and that food makes you feel all warm and cozy.
Naturally I asked them what their national dish was and when it comes to Italian food, it’s crazy regional, so those groups from Puglia would always reply “pasta with turnip”. Now hold on a sec, are you telling me the food you miss most is turnip pasta? Am I hearing it right? Because even Italians can’t pull that off.
So I kept prodding them for more information until they googled it on their phone and showed me the picture. Orecchiete alle Cime di Rapa aka Orecchiete with Broccoli Raab. Phew… THAT I can understand and get on board with, especially when a lot of pictures looked similar to this one!
As it often happens in cross-cultural situations, the famous and delicious Orecchiete alle Cime di Rapa became the victim of the ‘lost in traslation” situation as rapa translates into English as turnip!
As soon as I learned from my Bari students that the traditional for their region orecchiette (little ears…giggle, giggle) is flavoured with spicy sausage and broccoli raab and piles of freshly grated parmesan, I became downright obsessed with this “pasta with turnip”.
I searched for broccoli raab aka rapini far and wide with no luck. I turned to my Italian friend and she informed me it was difficult to find this interesting green in London but she uses tenderstem broccoli in its place.
The same situation with orecchiette although slightly less dire. It is possible to find it in specialty Italian shops but not really sold in supermarkets. A few months later she came back from visiting Italy from holiday with a package of Capunti pasta from Puglia for me. Not exactly orecchiette but made in Puglia and this pasta shape has the same thickness and chewyness.
It was clearly fate yet the package of this delicious pasta wrapped in several layers of cling wrap by Angela (to keep it from exploding on the plane as she explained) remained in my cupboard for months! I knew what I wanted to make with it but I had no time and I wouldn’t let my family use Capunti for any other dish. No Bolognese sauce was good enough for it!
I make a lot of pasta dishes. Every time we visit Italy I talk to amazing home cooks to learn their tips and tricks on how to get the most flavour. It might come as a surprise but very few traditional Italian pasta dishes are creamy or cheesy. A handful of parmesan or Grana Padano is how most Italian cooks finish off their dishes, yet they pack huge amounts of flavour! How? They use only the best ingredients and they let them shine. Italians really distrust food with too many ingredients. They also possess mad cooking skills that allow them to extract maximum flavour!
Here are my tips on making better pasta:
- Buy quality pasta, it should be labeled as 100% durum semolina. It is law in Italy for all pastas to be made with 100% durum semolina, but not the case for most North American producers.
- Always salt the water you cook you pasta in. I once heard the water should taste like it’s been taken from a sea. Leave it to an Italian to turn cooking into poetry.
- Reserve a cup of starchy water to add to the sauce later, it will loosen creamy and tomato sauces and will lighten them up.
- Always add pasta to the sauce and then toss it to coat. Do not serve pasta and sauce separately. It’s a big NO for Italians.
- Do cook your pasta al dente; it should have a bit of resistance when you bite into it, which usually can only be achieved with 100% durum semolina pasta.
- Add enough salt to the finished pasta. 90% of the time when people complain about the lack of flavour is due to the lack of salt, which is very easy to fix.
- Deglaze the pan you make sauce in after browning with either wine, stock or starchy water, depending on the recipe. That little step is hugely important in creating additional flavour.
Now let’s talk about this sausage and broccoli pasta. It can taste phenomenal or plain depending on how it is made and because of that I decided to throw in a huge flavour maker into the mix. Herb and Garlic Breadcrumbs. Don’t even try making this sausage and broccoli pasta without them!! They are salty, garlicky and crispy. They are the perfect topping for this pasta!! In my humble opinion, they take this bog -standard sausage and broccoli pasta to a new hight! They make it extra-ordinary.
Now let’s make it, shall we?
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced1 cup/100g breadcrumbs, prepared or your own
- 2 tbsp parsley, minced
- ½ lemon, zest only
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 13 oz/375 g sausage
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- ¼-1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 lbs short pasta
- 5 oz/140 g tenderstem broccoli
- ⅔ cup/80 g grated parmesan or Grana Padano
- In a frying pan heat olive oil and butter, then add garlic and fry for a minute over low heat, add breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest and salt, fry while stirring once in a while until golden for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and pasta and cook according to package directions. Add tenderstem broccoli to the pot for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Meanwhile remove sausage from casing and cook in a large and deep frying pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, minced garlic, basic, oregano and fennel seeds over medium heat for approximately 7-10 minutes until no longer pink.
- Scoop out ¼ cup of pasta water and add to the pan with the sausage, scrape the brown bit to release them into the sauce. You should have enough liquid just to cover no more than the bottom of the pan. Take it off the heat until pasta is ready.
- Drain your pasta and broccoli while reserving 1 cup/250ml of pasta water.
- Add pasta and broccoli to the pan with sausage, add half of the reserved water and parmesan cheese, stir to coat over low heat, add chilli flakes and taste if additional salt is needed. Add more water if the pasta is too stiff, it should jiggle if you shake the pan. You shouldn't have any liquid in the pan but pasta should be coated in silky, cheesy coating.
- Serve topped with breadcrumbs and additional grated parmesan. Freeze leftover breadcrumbs for another use.