Recipe: Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Baby Broccoli Florets

This is one of the first Giada De Laurentiis recipes that I tried (from her Everyday Italian cookbook; I’ve made a few changes to it) and my boyfriend, John, and I quickly put it on our favorites list, frequently making it on weeknights when we were in college. John would peel the casings off of the sausage while I minced garlic and brought water to a boil for the pasta and broccoli, then he and I would work to pull the sausages apart into bite size pieces and toss them into a saute pan of hot olive oil. The whole meal pulls together in about 20 or 30 minutes and it reheats really well, which was always good for John and I, because that meant we always had lunch the next day. 🙂

Serves: 4-6
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1, 36 oz. (or close to that amount) bag frozen baby broccoli florets, slightly thawed
  • 1 lb. orecchiette (“little hats”) pasta, or medium conchiglie/shells
  • A few tbsp. olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a saute pan and then a little more to drizzle over the finished pasta)
  • 1 package (about 5 links) hot Italian sausage, casings removed, with the meat pulled into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • A few tbsp. butter or margarine (to mix in with the finished pasta)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Italian cheese, to taste

Directions
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (about 12 minutes). When the timer for the pasta gets down to 4 or 5 minutes, add in the broccoli and cook it with the pasta. When done, drain the pasta and broccoli mixture, then return it to the pot. Add butter and olive oil to taste—enough to coat everything and create a very light “sauce.”

In the meantime, heat olive oil in a large saute pan, then add the pieces of sausage and cook, stirring them around occasionally to make sure they cook evenly on all sides. Add the garlic in after a few minutes, and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook the sausage until it is all cooked through and slightly browned (about 10-15 minutes). Toss the sausage and all of the juices from the pan in with the pasta and broccoli mixture and stir to combine. Serve topped with Italian cheese.

This meal is so easy to make and it’s packed with flavor. The hot Italian sausage adds spiciness and texture to the dish, and the broccoli adds color and a fresh flavor. Shell-shaped pasta like orecchiette or conchiglie are the perfect shape pasta for this dish—they’re about the same size as the sausage pieces and broccoli, so you can easily get all three in a single mouthful. As I said in the intro, this dish reheats wonderfully, so it’s great to make on a busy weeknight and even better to take to work or school the next day for lunch.

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