orecchiette with broccoli rabe pesto

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Sausage

Orecchiette is the most popular pasta in Apulia. Bitter greens are particularly associated with Roman and South Italian cuisine. Broccoli rabe was a favorite in ancient Rome and even makes an appearance in the 4th century cookbook, De re coquinaria (On Cooking) ,attributed to Apicius.

1 pound orecchiette
8 ounces broccoli rabe
2 cloves garlic
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup + 4 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
1 cup finely chopped fennel bulb
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
2 cups chicken stock

Toast the pistachios in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked broccoli rabe to an ice bath and let cool, about 3 minutes. Dry well.

Place the garlic, pistachios, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until in very small pieces. Place the cooled and dry broccoli rabe and pulse a few times, then, with the machine running, gradually pour in ½ cup olive oil. Transfer to a small bowl, toss with the cheese, taste, adjust seasoning and set aside.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan on medium-low. Add fennel and onion, and cook until soft but not brown. Add sausage and cook, mashing it to a fine crumble, until light golden brown. Add chicken stock and cook until the stock has mostly evaporated. Set aside.

Bring the same pot of salted water back to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain, saving a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the pesto and the fennel/sausage mixture, adding a little pasta water it is too dry. Serve warm.

Serves 6

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