Orecchiette with Sausage, Tomato and Broccoli

March 27, 2018

First, I just need to make an announcement that a new baby has joined our family:

She’s so shiny, right?

The twins weren’t the only thing keeping me from blogging here. Our old stove had all but a tiny burner die right around Christmas, and even though I got this one back then it took almost THREE months to get all the pipes and installation complete. But she’s worth it. I feel like I am driving a Ferrari when I am cooking on it. Wait until you see how she carmelized the chicken and veggies in our favorite stir fry on my next post!

So, my inspiration to cook is sky high and the babies are sleeping more. To all my loyal readers – thank you! I hope you are happy to see some more recipes coming.

So let’s start with this delicious pasta dish I came up with last week. It’s that in between time in spring, when we have gone through all of our favorite cold weather comfort foods. Everyone’s favorite chili and beef stew have started to become much like our favorite wool sweaters and our boots – we’re glad you were there in December and January, but we want to put you away soon and bring out some new stuff for a new season.

Enter this Orecchiette with Sausage, Tomato and Broccoli Pasta.

Fresh Mozzarella is such a great reminder that summer days are ahead, loaded with Caprese salads and fresh herbs on the deck. But this hearty pasta dish still sticks to your ribs on these chilly spring nights.

The inspiration behind it is many Italian recipes combine this small, ear shaped pasta with broccoli rabe. I’ve seen one with just orecchiette, broccoli rabe and buttered bread crumbs on top. My kids think that broccoli rabe is a little bitter (I love it!) but they dig broccoli. I have also been using cut up sweet Italian turkey sausages as a short cut to making meatballs. My youngest thinks a meal without hot dogs or meatballs is really just a snack, so we lean heavy on quick meat around here.

When I got to thinking about what kids like, it made me keep everything small for them. Enter the cherry tomatoes, cooked until they burst their warm juices when you cook the for a few minutes, and this ‘cherry size’ fresh mozzarella. It isn’t always easy to find, so you could cube a large fresh mozz ball.

My kids loved this dish! And I loved how the garlic and sausage give this dish great flavor, while the combination of it gives so many great textures. Pouring on pasta water right at the end helps keep everything moist and helps to melt the cheese. This ones a winner.

Orecchiette with Sausage, Tomato and Broccoli (printer version here): 


2 T. olive oil

1 onion, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

14 oz package sweet Italian turkey sausage, sliced

4 cups broccoli florets (or 1 bag of pre-cut florets)

12 oz orecchiette pasta (or other favorite shape)

1 package cherry tomatoes

2 packages of small mozzarella balls (also called ciliegine – just cube 2 large fresh mozzarellas if you can’t find them)

1 cup reserved pasta water

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Serve with more grated cheese + red pepper flakes


Put large pot of water for pasta on to boil with salt.

Heat oil in a large sautee pan, then add onions, cooking until soft about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add turkey sausage slices and brown.

Meanwhile, add broccoli to boiling water and set timer for 3 minutes. Fill bowl with cold water and ice cubes for an ice bath to stop cooking. Check if tender using a knife, and when it is slightly tender, use a slotted spoon to plunge it immediately into ice water bath. Drain after 1-2 minutes.

When broccoli is removed add orecchiette pasta to the same boiling water.

Add cherry tomatoes to sausage pan, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Then add broccoli and mozzarella cheese. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Add pasta + water to help melt cheese and make a sauce to the same pan. Add a palmful of grated parm.

Serve with more parm and red pepper flakes, if desired.

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