Italian Sausage Orecchiette with Broccolini

I have been obsessed with this dish lately.  It is completely soul satisfying with a depth of flavor and very simple to prepare. The thing about this dish that makes it so lovely is the marrying of the sausage, garlic, butter and pasta water to make a beautiful emulsified sauce that clings to the orecchiette pockets. You taste the sauce with every bite.  The broccolini gives a little crunch and texture to go along.

Enjoy and Bon Appétit! Chef Bettina

Italian Sausage Orecchiette with Broccolini

~ four servings

1 bunch of broccolini (1 1/4–1 1/2 pounds), trimmed

Kosher salt

12 ounces orecchiette

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

12 ounces fresh Italian sausage (about 3 links), casings removed

Crushed red pepper flakes

4 garlic cloves, smashed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 1/2 cups), plus more for serving

Cook broccolini in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to an ice bath to stop the cooking process and then to a colander. (save pot of water for cooking pasta). Chop broccoli into smaller pieces; set aside.

Bring reserved pot of water to a boil again and cook pasta until barely al dente, about 9 minutes.  It is important to slightly undercook the pasta in this step because it will finish cooking in the sauté pan.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add sausage and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and break up meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up sausage, until it is browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Add garlic, stirring, until it starts to turn golden, about 1 minute.

Ladle about 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid from pot into skillet with sausage and add blanched broccolini. Keep mixture at a low simmer, stirring often and mashing with spoon to break up sausage even more. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer pasta to skillet, then ladle in an additional ½ cup pasta water. Cook, stirring, until pasta absorbs most of the liquid and is just al dente, about 4 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted, then transfer pasta to a large bowl. Gradually add 1 1/2 oz. Parmesan, tossing constantly until you have a glossy, emulsified sauce.

Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes (if desired) and a drizzle of oil.

*Bettina Tolin is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin Texas.  She has cooked in the kitchens of the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Florida. She is currently the Executive Chef and owner of Marcello’s Ocean Grille & Spirits overlooking the historic lighthouse in Port Isabel, Texas.  Marcello’s Ocean Grille & Spirits was recently written up in Texas Monthly magazine as the new trending restaurant for dinner and brunch in the South Padre Island area.