Food & Drink Magazine

Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto

By Weavethousandflavors

  Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - 02

When was the last time you met a bunch of broccoli-rabe a.k.a rapini? If introductions were previously made but you suffer being unable to place its name or worse having forgotten its face, its time to make those introductions again.

People, meet broccoli-rabe also known as rapini.

BroccoliRaab

Photo courtesy Mariquita Farm.

Broccoli rabe is in the same genus as broccoli, its a Brassica, it's flavor however is more akin to  turnip & mustard greens.  It is not, however, the same thing as broccolini or baby broccoli, which are much sweeter.

If you have been ignoring this lustrous green leafy vegetable with spiky green leaves & clusters of yellow flowers because you've heard or having tasted it, dislike the slightly bitter flavor that is characteristic of this vegetable, then I am sorry to say friend that the fault lies with the cook. Yup, that's right, blame it on the cook! Because, done right this vegetable is Nature's gift to us gastronauts.

In this dish, we blanch it is boiling water till just tender and still a bright green and then turn it into a silky pesto loaded with the flavor of fresh garlic, aged parmesan and nutty-sweet pistachios. And if this weren't enough we smooth its ruffled feathers with creamy mascarpone. All this is only improved with the flavors of Italian sausage and pasta with which its tossed.

If this description wasn't enough and you are one of those healthful-living-geeks then let this be your mind changer. The big news with broccoli rabe is its cancer-preventing potential. Also it is rich in antioxidant-rich vitamins A and C, both of which fight off dangerous free radicals that can cause damage to your body's cells not to mention potassium, fiber, and calcium.

Now there's a good reason to re-accquaint yourself with this lovely. I rest my case.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - 03

 

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Ingredients
 
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Sprinkle pistachio oil & gourmet salt

Gather the ingredients :

For the pesto - Large bunch fresh rapini/broccoli rabe,  aged hard parmesan cheese,  pistachio kernels, good quality, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, & Mascarpone cheese (available in the cheese carousel at your grocery store)

For the Pasta - 1 lb Orecchiette Pasta (available in the pasta aisle or a shape that you like), mild Italian Sausage (bulk - without casings), medium yellow onion, garlic cloves,  good quality olive oil, red pepper flakes and some fresh rapini/broccoli rabe.

Finally, these are optional but delicious - pure pistachio oil (for drizzle) and Australian flake salt  but substitute with regular salt if needed. More grated cheese for serving, if desired.

Begin by first setting a large pot of water to boil on high heat for the pasta with 1 tbs salt.

Meanwhile prepare the other ingredients -

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Cut Rapini
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Cut Rapini02

Rapini/Broccoli Rabe - Cut away woody stems and discard discolored leaves. Dice into 1" pieces and set aside. Set aside about 5 cups for the pesto and 1 cup for the pasta.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Freshly grate Parmesan
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Chop vegetables

Cheese - Freshly grate & set aside. My Microplane Parmesan grater makes easy work of this.

Garlic - Peel, discard skin, crush, chop and set aside. Separate 1/2 the quantity for the pesto and the remaining for the pasta

Onion - Peel, discard skin & cut away ends. Finely chop and set aside.

Pistachios - If whole, shell and set aside kernels.

 

Method -

Pesto first:

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Blanch Rapini
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Ingredients in blender

Bring 2 cups of water with 1/2 tbs salt to a furious boil. Drop the rapini for the pesto (all but the 1 cup reserved) into the water and simmer for  4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the hot liquid. 

In a blender, place the blanched & drained rapini, grated cheese, shelled pistachios, garlic cloves, 2 tbs hot liquid and pulverize.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto -Prepare Pesto
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Add Mascarpone

From the opening in the lid, drizzle olive oil and blend to a smooth paste.

Remove to a bowl. Stir in the mascarpone cheese and set aside.

You will have a little bit of pesto left-over which can be refrigerated and used over the next couple of days for a pasta salad or to serve with grilled shrimp.

Only once the pesto is ready, add pasta to boiling water & cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions and drain in a sieve.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Saute garlic
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Saute onions

In a saute pan or preferably a cast iron pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat for a minute or so till very hot.

Add the chopped garlic and as soon as it begins changing color, add the chopped onions. Saute for about 2 minutes.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Saute Italian sausage
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Saute Italian sausage2

Add the chili flakes and the sausage.

Break up the sausage in the pan  and saute for about 4-5 minutes till the sausage is no longer pink and begins to lightly brown.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Add diced Rapini
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Saute Rapini

 
Add the diced rapini and saute for another 2 minutes until the rapini has wilted & is srispy tender. Remove the pan from heat.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Add pasta
Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - Add pesto

Add the cooked pasta and stir till combined.

Add 1-1/2 cups of prepared Rapini pesto and gently toss with the pasta to combine.

Sprinkle with the Australian Flake salt or regular salt and drizzle the pistachio oil if using. Serve immediately with more grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Orecchiette with Italian saisage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto - 01

 
Incredibly refreshing with the pasta enveloped in the smooth and creamy textures from the pesto and the rich meaty flavors from the sausage. The mascarpone rounds off the nutty flavors from the pistachio and the slightly bitter undertones from the rapini beautifully.

The occasional crunch from the sauteed rapini balances the otherwise smooth textures. Versatile and eternal, this is a meal that is fit for a quick week night family dinner or perfect for company with some wonderful crusty bread and wine.

Did I mention, kid friendly? Judging from the empty pasta bowls, I'd say so!

 

Recipe for

Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage & Rapini-Pistachio Pesto

Preparation time - 15 minutes

Cooking Time -  15 minutes

Serves 4-6

Shopping list

Rapini/Broccoli Rabe Pesto -

Fresh Rapini (to yield approx 5 cups)

1/2 cup freshly grated  aged hard parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shelled pistachio kernels

1/2 cup good quality, extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup Mascarpone cheese (available in the cheese carousel at your grocery store)

Pasta -

1 lb Orecchiette Pasta (available in the pasta aisle)

1/2 lb mild Italian Sausage (bulk - without casings)

1 medium yellow onion

4 garlic cloves

2 tbs good quality olive oil

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Fresh Rapini (to yield approx 1 cup)

1 tsp pure pistachio oil (optional)

1/2 tsp Australian flake salt (optional) or regular salt

More grated cheese for serving, if desired

Preparation -

Rapini/Broccoli Rabe - Cut away woody stems and discard discolored leaves. Dice into 1" pieces and set aside.

Cheese - Freshly grate & set aside.

Garlic - Peel, discard skin, crush, chop and set aside. Separate those for the pesto and that for the pasta

Pistachios - Shell and set aside kernels.

Onion - Peel, discard skin & cut away ends. Finely chop and set aside.

Orecchiette Pasta - Bring water to a furious boil for the pasta. (Do not add pasta to water till after pesto is ready) Cook according to directions on the package.  Sieve and set aside.

Method -

Begin with the pesto first:

Bring 2 cups of water with 1/2 tbs salt to a furious boil. Drop the rapini for the pesto (all but the 1 cup reserved) into the water and simmer for  4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the hot liquid.

In a blender, place the blanched rapini, grated cheese, shelled pistachios, garlic cloves, 2 tbs hot liquid and pulverize. From the opening in the lid, drizzle olive oil and blend to a smooth paste.

Remove to a bowl. Stir in the mascarpone cheese and set aside.

You will have a little bit of pesto left-over which can be refrigerated and used over the next couple of days for a pasta salad or to serve with grilled shrimp.

Once the pesto is ready, add pasta to boiling water & the pasta al dente and draining in a sieve.

In a saute pan or preferably a cast iron pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat for a minute or so till very hot.

Add the chopped garlic and as soon as it begins changing color, add the chopped onions.

Saute for about 2 minutes and then add the chili flakes and the sausage.

Break up the sausage in the pan  and saute for about 4-5 minutes till the sausage is no longer pink and begins to lightly brown.

Add the diced rapini and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked pasta and stir till combined. Add 1-1/2 cups of prepared Rapini pesto and gently toss with the pasta to combine.

Sprinkle with the Australian Flake salt or regular salt and drizzle the pistachio oil if using.

Serve immediately with more grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Enjoy!

 


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