This orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe is creamy, spicy, and extra cheesy, thanks to using leftover parmesan rinds in the sauce!
This sauce loads up on sausage, crushed red pepper, a lightly caramelized onion, heavy cream, lemon juice, and a few secret ingredients to give it a powerful oomph of flavor.
The first secret ingredient? Piment d’Ville, a spice I carry in my shop. You can also use Piment d’Espelette or smoked paprika. Either way, it’s going to give you nice, lightly spicy, smoky undertones.
The next secret ingredient? These beauties:
You may be hip to the idea of using leftover parmesan rinds, but let this post be your PSA for those who haven’t. Save them! Parmesan rinds can be used to add a beautiful salty, fatty, rich flavor to just about anything. You can use them in soups and stews, throw them in homemade stock, add them to a tomato or cream-based sauce, or add them to risotto to lend even more creaminess to the dish.
Simply throw it in and let it simmer for 45 minutes or up to 2 hours. I find anything past 2 hours gives diminishing returns. Letting them simmer for at least 45 minutes lets you make the most of the rind. It’ll melt down and become very soft. It won’t disintegrate fully, so simply discard it once you’re ready to serve. Some people swear by leaving it in the sauce overnight, so experiment and see what you like best!
How to make this orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe:
The recipe is fairly simple to make, and you’ll need two pots, one for the sauce and one for the pasta and broccoli rabe.
You’ll start by frying the sausage and then lightly caramelizing an onion. A pinch of sugar will help speed up the caramelization process.
Next, add butter and spices, including the Piment d’Ville, crushed red pepper, and garlic. I used garlic confit and mashed the cloves into the onion, though raw minced garlic will work just fine.
From there, simply add water or stock and the parmesan rind and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the rind and add some cream. I like to turn up the heat a little and let the cream bubble and thicken for 5 or so minutes.
While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta about 10 minutes before the sauce is due to finish cooking. To save yourself the trouble of another pot, I add the rabe to the pasta about 2 minutes before it’s al dente.
Drain it, throw it in the sauce, and toss it to coat. From there, finish with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. You’ll love this creamy, rich dinner!
Looking for more pasta recipes? Check my archives!
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Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
- Large pot
- Wide pot
- 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage loose
- 1 yellow onion peeled and sliced into half-moons
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 cloves confit garlic or use 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Piment d’Ville or Piment d’Espelette or smoked paprika
- Crushed red pepper to taste
- 3 cups water or vegetable stock
- 1 parmesan rind
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ lemon juiced
- 16 ounces orecchiette
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe trimmed and roughly chopped
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh minced parsley grated parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil, for garnish
Brown the sausage:
- Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks for 12–15 minutes or until completely cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Cook the onion:
- Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the same pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15–20 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent the onion from burning. Once the onion begins to deepen in color, add a pinch of sugar and continue cooking until completely soft and golden brown, 5–10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
- Melt the butter into the onion. Add the confit garlic, piment d’Espelette, and crushed red pepper. Cook for 1 minute, mashing the garlic into the onion as it cooks. Return the cooked sausage to the pot.
Simmer the sauce:
- Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Add the parmesan rind and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the sauce reduces and begins to thicken. Adjust heat as needed if the sauce reduces too quickly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard the parmesan rind.
- Pour in the heavy cream and turn the heat to medium. Let the cream bubble and thicken for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season once more with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low.
Cook the pasta and broccoli rabe:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt. About 10 minutes before the sauce finishes cooking, add the orecchiette to the water. 2 minutes before the orecchiette finishes cooking, add the broccoli rabe to the pot of boiling water. After 2 minutes, drain the pasta and broccoli rabe.
Finish the pasta:
- Add the cooked pasta, broccoli rabe, and grated parmesan cheese to the sauce; toss to coat. Taste and season once more.
- Divide the cooked pasta between shallow bowls. Garnish with minced parsley, more parmesan, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you like. Enjoy!