One of the sad, hard facts of this never-ending polar vortex has settled on me like a deadweight… I used up the last of my homemade heirloom tomato sauce from the summer. My pasta sauce comes from an old recipe in my husband’s family. I make it with tomatoes from my garden, a mix of new plum tomatoes and heirloom varieties, and let it simmer for hours in a huge stockpot. Then, I set aside little containers in the freezer to get me through the winter. Summer frozen in tupperware. Delicious.
Without my favorite tomato-based sauce for pasta, I have time to experiment with other pasta dishes. Take my Little Pasta Shells with Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. You can find examples of this dish in any good Italian cookbook and many restaurant menus in Chicago.
This variation was inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian. The recipe is hearty enough for a main course. Serve alone or with a salad and you will be a happy person no matter what the weather is like. I had a few pieces of dark chocolate sea salt caramel for dessert afterword. Yum.
Little Pasta Shells with Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
This recipe was inspired by menu listings across Chicago Italian restaurants and the Giada de Laurentiis’ cookbook Everyday Italian.
2 bunches Broccoli Rabe, stems trimmed, leaves cut into 2″ ribbons
1 lb dry small-shaped pasta, such as shells, farfalle or orecchiette
1.5 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. mild Italian sausage, casings removed
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. Romano cheese, plus 1/4 c. for serving
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add Broccoli rabe and cook about 5 minutes, until dark green and tender. Strain out of stockpot, reserving all cooking liquid. Drain excess liquid from broccoli rabe and set aside. Add pasta to water used to cook the broccoli rabe. Cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes, depending on variety of pasta. Drain pasta, reserving 1 c. cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl in pan. Once hot, add Italian sausage, breaking up into pieces as you add them. Continue to cook, breaking up further with a wooden spoon or spatula, for 10 minutes, or until sausage is no longer pink. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir constantly, 1 minute. Add drained broccoli rabe to pan and stir into the sausage to soak up any juices and oil, five minutes more. Then add drained, hot pasta and freshly ground black pepper to pan. Stir until evenly combined. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper if needed. Finish by stirring in 1/2 c. Romano cheese.
Serve with a little extra Romano cheese grated on top.