This is an easy pasta dish that can be adapted to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. I first tasted a version of it about 25 years ago at a restaurant in the Hamptons on Long Island. I have long since forgotten the name of the restaurnat or even if this is actually what I ate there. It’s delicious and is wonderful on a cold winter night. The sauce is very light so this is one pasta that won’t weigh you down and make you feel that you have to hit the gym. And while I actually do enjoy bitter greens, cooking the rapini this way, smooths out the harsh edges.
Penne Pasta with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
Yield: 6 servings
16 ounces penne pasta or other hearty pasta
1 large bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), with the leaves torn into pieces. Slice the thicker stems into smaller pieces; thinner stems can just be broken.
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes cut into julienne
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
EVOO/Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 pound hot Italian sausage (I used chicken but any kind you like is fine) removed from its casing. Most commercial “hot” sausage isn’t very hot. If you want more heat, you can add some red pepper flakes.
1/4 cup red wine (use what you will be drinking) or chicken stock
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
About 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water
zest of one lemon
- In a large, heavy saute pan, brown the sausage in about 2 Tablespoons of EVOO and the butter. Break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic towards the end of the browning and cook for 2 minutes more. I used chicken sausage which doesn’t have a lot of fat. If you use a pork sausage you might need to drain off some of the fat before continuing.
- Add the wine, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, nutmeg, parsley and fennel seeds. Stir and cook on medium heat for 3 more minutes.
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt to a vigourous boil. Add one pound of pasta and boil for 7 minutes. At the end of 7 minutes, add the broccoli rabe to the pot of boiling pasta. Stir through and continue boiling for 4 more minutes. (This is a total of 11 minutes for the pasta)
- Before draining the pasta and broccoli rabe, carefully remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add it to the pan with sausage and tomatoes. Drain the pasta and broccoli and put them back in the pot. Add about 1 Tablespoon of EVOO. If you have Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, use that. Add the lemon zest. Pour the sauce over the top and mix through.
- Serve with freshly grated cheese – Asiago, Pecorino or a good Parmesan – and a good crusty bread. A green salad consumed after the pasta is always a good idea.