Saturday, April 25, 2009

A good dish for a cold night

My husband is the most agreeable eater I could ask for to test recipes on. While he'll be as earnestly critical as I need him to be, for the most part, he's sweet and enthusiastic about whatever I make, as long as it does not involve eggplant.

If pressed, he'd probably say that his favorite things that I make are roast chicken (a la Marcella), flank steak with black beans, some really great chocolate chip cookies that come with assembly instructions, and pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage.

It's an old dish, right, nothing new here. I'd had it many times but never made it myself until we ended up one day in North Beach a year or two ago, having sort of a vacation day in the City. We ended up at Cafe Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola's restaurant in the Sentinel Building, after rejecting all the other touristy and almost sad-feeling places (on Columbus Street, restaurant managers will often stand on the street and try and lure you in and away from their competitors). I ordered orecchiette with broccoli rabe.

Maybe it was the the decadence of having wine in the middle of a regular Saturday afternoon, or the kitschy thrill of all the black and white photos of Francis and all of his movie stars plastered on the walls, but somehow, that dish sent us both over the moon. So I went home, anxious to recreate it. After several incarnations, I finally have it down. It's a recipe delicious enough for guests, but simple enough for a weeknight dinner. The only things this recipe requires are a cold night and someone to split the rest of the bottle of wine with.

Here is the recipe, not for the kosher or the faint of heart.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

1 lb. orecchiette or medium pasta shells
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
1 bunch broccoli rabe, root end trimmed
3 T. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c. red wine
1 c. cream
1/3 c. grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Plunge the broccoli rabe in and blanche for 2 minutes. Remove with a spider (do not dump water, you will use it for the pasta) and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain, and when cool enough, squeeze excess water out and chop into 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook 4-5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the sausage and cook another 5-7 minutes, until browned.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then add the wine. Let simmer until slightly reduced, 2-3 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and stir to heat through, 2-3 minutes. Add cream, let bubble only until it's slightly thickened, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until nearly done. Drain and add to pan with sausage and broccoli rabe. Turn the heat down to medium low, toss the pasta with the sauce and grated parmesan and finish cooking, 1-2 minutes.

Drink with copious amounts of red wine.


  1. I love this story! I have to make this dish! Aside from the fact that this looks incredibly delicious, my husband is such a movie fanatic that the story about the restaurant with this for dinner will make him a happy boy!