Hi everyone! This is the first recipe that I’ve shared in over a year. It comes served with a side of apology. By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t learned food photography yet. But, more than 3 years into food blogging and I think my photography skills are actually getting worse. I will forever cringe whenever reminded that I posted a photo with an electronic date stamp on it. Please see below, please forgive, and then please never think of it again. (I had to borrow my dad’s old camera at the time and I was too hungry to try and figure out how to remove the date setting.)
As you can tell from the date on the photo, I’m a bit behind with sharing “new” recipes. At first, I was really busy with life changes that all happened within a year: moving, working crazy hours for a new job, adjusting to a different lifestyle and kitchen, saying good bye to my beloved Blue, getting over the end of a long term relationship, being introduced to dating (I spent more time and energy hating it than I did practicing it), and starting a new relationship. I spent quite a bit of time being lazy, too. But then, in March 2013, I incurred a pretty bad concussion while curling. Yes, I’m That good 😉 So for several months, cooking and using a computer (among many other every day tasks) became impossible. I am finally on the mend and trying to improve my computer screen tolerance by using it for a couple of hours each day. I couldn’t think of anything better than food blogging to accomplish this goal. 🙂 So, for starters, I am happy to present to you, my favourite orecchiette pasta recipe. [On a side note, if you or anyone you know is currently suffering from a concussion, let me know. I’ve tried EVERY treatment option and I would love to share any information that might help anyone get better sooner.]
The last time I went to an Italian restaurant in NYC, I ordered orecchiette with hot Italian sausage and rapini. It was delicious, but unnecessarily pricey. So, I recreated it when I returned home. This pasta dish is easy to make and elegant enough to serve at a dinner party. You could serve it as a starter or as the main dish.
Orecchiette with Sausage and Rapini Recipe
serves 4 to 6
1 lb dried orecchiette pasta (Note: My preferred brand is De Cecco.)
1 bunch of rapini (Note: Since rapini is naturally slightly bitter, it is very important to use fresh and young rapini which will have smaller stems and no yellow flowers.)
up to 1 lb raw mild or hot Italian sausage, filling removed from the casing
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
extra virgin olive oil
hot chili flakes
ground black pepper
optional: zest of 1, preferably organic, lemon
optional for garnish: parmigiano reggiano
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. When the pot of water reaches boiling point, add a large pinch of salt to it. Then add the pasta to the boiling water. Cover the pot with the lid until the water returns to a rolling boil. Then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil with the pot uncovered until the pasta is cooked to al dente or desired softness (personally, I prefer pasta that is softer than al dente). Follow the cooking instructions found on the pasta packaging for guidelines on cooking time. (Note: Be sure to add the rapini approximately 2 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time. See below for further instructions.) When you drop the pasta into the boiling water, start heating a large, heavy bottomed saute pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, but not burning, add a few light drizzles of olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add the sausage meat and and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned on the outside but still pink in the middle. Be sure to break up the larger pieces using your cooking utensil. (Note: If your pan is hot enough when you add the oil, it will only take a few seconds for the oil to get hot, so be careful not to burn the oil. If you do burn the oil, discard it, wash the pan, dry it completely and start again.) Then add the garlic and a small pinch of hot chili flakes (or more to taste) and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is cooked all the way through. Remove the pan from heat until the pasta is done cooking. The goal is to finish cooking the sausage right before the pasta is done.
About 2 minutes before you anticipate your pasta being done, turn the heat to high and add the rapini to the boiling water. Once the water returns to a rolling boil, taste test one of the pieces of pasta to ensure that the desired softness has been achieved. By the time the pasta is done, the rapini should be cooked through as well. Try not to overcook the rapini. It should be tender but still crisp. Immediately strain the pasta and rapini out of the water and add it to the cooked sausage in the saute pan. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and toss the pasta with lemon zest (if using). Drizzle and toss in extra virgin olive oil until the desired amount of flavour and shininess is achieved. You want the pasta to be smooth and to not stick together, but you don’t want it to feel or taste oily. Serve immediately and, if desired, garnish with finely grated parmigiano reggiano.