Broccoli Bolognese with Orecchiette

I have two versions of one of my favorite classic Italian dishes to share. This is the broccoli-loaded “healthier” version.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Adam Rapoport. I increased the amount of broccoli, modified the proportions, and used sweet Italian sausage. It was a quick and tasty weeknight meal.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of broccoli florets
  • coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 12 to 14 ounces fresh sweet or hot Italian sausage (about 3-4 links), casings removed
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 14 to 16 ounces orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

  1. Cook broccoli in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a colander and let cool (save pot of water for cooking pasta).
  2. Chop broccoli into small pieces; set aside.
  3. Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook garlic, shaking skillet occasionally, until it starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. Bring reserved pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until barely al dente, about 9 minutes (set a timer for 3 minutes less than the package instructions; it will cook more in the skillet).
  6. Meanwhile, ladle about ½ cup pasta cooking liquid from pot into skillet with sausage and add blanched broccoli. Keep mixture at a low simmer, stirring often and mashing with spoon to break up sausage even more, until pasta is finished cooking.
  7. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer pasta to skillet, then ladle in ½ cup pasta water. Cook, stirring, until pasta absorbs most of the liquid and is just al dente, about 4 minutes.
  8. Add butter and stir until melted, then transfer pasta to a large bowl.
  9. Gradually add 1½ oz. Parmesan, tossing constantly until you have a glossy, emulsified sauce.
  10. Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes and a drizzle of oil.

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