Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rigatoni With Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

This is one of your super-simple, quick weeknight one-dish meals. The balance of sweet, rich, spicy sausage with the bitter greens, the salty Parmesan, and the neutralizing pasta is a perfect harmony.

The secret to good broccoli rabe (or as we call it in our household, broccoli The Rob) is that you have to take the edge off the bitterness, either by “shocking” it in boiling water or siphoning it out into chicken stock or another liquid while sautéing. I find the former method to be more effective—as long as you don’t boil the greens for too long so they lose their crunch and flavor. It works great for pasta since you can just toss it into the same water.

Start by boiling a big covered pot of salted water. I like using one that comes with a lift-out colander basket, since it makes it super easy to lift out the broccoli rabe and then add the pasta into the same boiling water. But if you don’t have one you can use tongs to extricate it.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or wide-bottomed stockpot over medium-high. Add a pound of loose sweet or hot Italian sausage—you can either buy it that way, or use a paring knife to slit the casings of a package of 6 tube-style sausages and “peel” them to extricate the filling.

Sauté the sausage, stabbing it with a wooden spoon to crumble it up into smaller chunks. (BTW, Stabbing to Crumble would be a great name for your new thrash-metal band. You’re welcome!)

When the sausage is cooked through (gray with brown spots; it’s okay if there are hints of pink still), lift it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag.

Drain half of the grease from the pan and return it to the burner, lowered to medium-low. Add a pat of butter or a splash of olive oil and a pinch to a small handful of dried red pepper flakes, depending how much heat you like. Add 1/2 onion, diced, and sauté until soft and translucent. Add several cloves chopped garlic, and sauté a couple minutes more.

Raise heat to medium, and deglaze the pan with a splash of beef or chicken stock or white wine—that means to pour in the liquid and scrape the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the sausage back to the pan and lower heat to low.

Once the water boils, drop in a pound of broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed. Boil just till it’s emerald green, lift it out with the colander basket or use tongs, and drop it into ice water. Add a pound of rigatoni to the boiling water and cook per package directions, probably under 10 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, drain the broccoli rabe and chop it lengthwise into inch-ish pieces—they don’t need to be uniform; you’re going to have florets, leaves, and stems in the mix. Add it to the pan, stir, and cover.

When the pasta is done, drain it, toss it with the sauce, and serve topped with grated Parmesan. I personally would say that either red or white wine goes well with this dish, but I have absolutely no class whatsoever, so take my pairing suggestions at your own risk.

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