Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
Broccoli rabe and sausage pasta. This spicy main course is packed with flavor, can be thrown together in less than 30 minutes, and is one of my all-time favorite pasta recipes!
Say hello to one of my top five favorite pasta recipes!
We make this broccoli rabe and sausage pasta every few weeks, it is that delicious. It is the type of dish that you’ll make over and over again, and can be adapted to suit your tastes (or dietary preference).
Broccoli rabe and sausage pasta isn’t anything new and different. It is a classic Italian pasta dish, but I’ve given it a few simple twists that take it over the top.
My recipe below uses spicy Hot Italian pork sausage and adds kalamata olives, umami rich sun-dried tomatoes, and lots and lots of fresh garlic into the mix. Just before serving, this sausage mixture is tossed with orecchiette pasta (or any other textured small pasta of choice!).
Quite simply put, these ingredients work magic together! This pasta is spicy, briny, incredibly flavorful, and so easy to prepare. It has a little bit of everything. Best of all, it comes together in less than 30 minutes.
I originally shared this recipe a few years ago and am sharing a slightly updated version today with new photos. It deserves some attention in the spotlight!
If you’re not feeling one particular ingredient, just leave it out. If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, use mild sausage and omit the additional red pepper flakes. If you don’t like pork, substitute it with chicken or turkey sausage. If you’re vegetarian, feel free to leave out the sausage altogether.
You see where I’m going with this. This broccoli rabe pasta is extremely versatile!
What is Broccoli Rabe?
I’ve always loved broccoli rabe, but this recipe made me a broccoli rabe convert. If you’ve never cooked or prepared broccoli rabe before, this is a great way to introduce yourself to the green.
Broccoli rabe (pronounced broccoli rahb) is a green vegetable related to the cabbage and turnip family. It sometimes goes by the name of rapini or Italian broccoli, and comes in large bunches with very small broccoli-like buds. Like other bitter greens, broccoli rabe is packed with nutrients and is very high in Vitamin K and C, dietary fiber, and iron.
Broccoli rabe is known for its slightly bitter flavor, which is balanced and complemented by the other ingredients in this pasta. The slightly bitter flavor makes this green so complex and flavorful, much more so than other basic greens.
For this recipe, we’ll be roughly chopping the entire bunch of broccoli rabe and blanching it briefly in boiling salted water, before sautéing it with the sausage, olive, sun-dried tomato, and garlic mixture. The stems, leaves, and buds are all edible and contribute great texture to the pasta. As the rabe cooks down, the bitterness becomes more delicate.
Broccoli Rabe vs Broccolini
Broccoli rabe should not be confused with broccolini, which is much smaller and resembles long slender broccoli stalks. Broccolini is a cross between Chinese kale and traditional broccoli, and is better suited for roasting and other preparations.
If you can’t find broccoli rabe for this recipe, the next best alternative would be kale or spinach (just skip the blanching step, if using spinach!).
How to Make Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta:
This broccoli rabe pasta takes about 30 minutes to prepare start to finish. You’ll need two pieces of equipment: one large pot and one large (preferably 10″ to 12″ inches, or larger!) stainless steel skillet.
I recommend high-quality hot Italian pork sausage for this recipe. You can use bulk sausage or traditional sausage links. I recommend removing and discarding the casings, as it allows the sausage to be better distributed in the final pasta.
One of the most important steps in this recipe is to brown and caramelize the sausage to develop tons of flavor. To do this, you’ll need a large skillet. If the pan is too small, the sausage will be over-crowded and the meat will steam and not brown properly.
We’ll be using the large pot to blanch the broccoli rabe greens, as well as to cook the pasta. This eliminates the need to dirty up additional pots. Since we’ll be transferring the blanched greens (and pasta) directly to the skillet with the sausage mixture, you’ll also want a large slotted spoon or kitchen spider on hand.
If you love this recipe, be sure to try this romanesco cauliflower pasta or this fennel pasta next!
Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 12-16 ounces Hot Italian pork sausage casings removed
- ⅓ cup olive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes finely chopped
- ½ cup pitted and drained kalamata olives roughly chopped
- 5-6 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 large bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 lb) roughly chopped
- 12 ounces orecchiette or other textured short pasta
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking it into small pieces as you add it to the hot pan. Brown the sausage until mostly cooked through and evenly caramelized.
- Add the olives and sun-dried tomatoes to the skillet. Sauté over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the chopped broccoli rabe to the boiling water, blanch for 1 to 2 minutes, or until just wilted. Using a skimmer, fine-meshed sieve, or large slotted spoon, transfer the blanched broccoli rabe to the skillet. Stir mixture together until evenly combined. Do not discard the water, you’ll be using it to cook the pasta! Keep the skillet over medium-low heat to continuing gently sauteeinkeep warm, stirring occasionally, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Bring the pot of blanching water back to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving a cup or so of the pasta cooking water.
- Scoop and drain the pasta, and add it directly to the skillet to finish cooking. Gently toss pasta with the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture, adding reserved pasta water to thin if desired, until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve pasta with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a light drizzle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil (if desired).
Tips for Success:
- While I prefer using pork sausage (casings removed) for this pasta dish, feel free to substitute it with Hot Italian chicken or turkey sausage if that is your preference.
- Alternatively, you can make this dish vegetarian by omitting the sausage altogether.
38 Comments on “Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta”
Broccoli rabe was a winner! My son who is fiercely anti-vegetable even liked it! Didn’t have any real garlic so had to use garlic powder. But otherwise pretty much followed the recipe and it turned out great. Thanks for the recipe!
Husband said it was the best he’s ever had and this is one of my favorite dinners! Thanks for the idea to add kalamata and sun dried tomatoes. Delicious
Love hearing that, it’s one of my favorite pastas!
Excellent dish. Made without olives as my wife doesn’t like them and still turned out very tasty. The sundried tomatoes especially give it a great boost of flavor. Will definitely try again!
So glad to hear that you enjoyed it! Thanks for taking the time to leave a review.
Great recipe but pasta should be finished in the sausage mixture and the broccoli rabe added last.
Everyone is welcome to adapt my recipes to suit their taste preferences, but I respectfully disagree. The pasta is finished in the sausage mixture and the broccoli rabe is cooked at the beginning, because it is a green that is best cooked extremely, extremely tender – often “overcooked” compared to other delicate greens – to help remove bitterness. This is a very traditional way to cook it.
Great recipe for a lemon free alternative to the sausage/rabe/pasta combo!! I didn’t have any olives and used about 1/2lb of pasta and the flavors are excellent! First time for me to add a sun dried tomato variation to one of my favorite dishes. Thanks for the recipe! Excellent!!
This is OUTSTANDING! My first attempt with broccoli rabe, not bitter in any sense, but I did grow it myself.
I definitely will make this again!
So glad you enjoyed it! One of my favorites.
I made it vegan by following your recipe with Beyond Meat Sausage (Hot Italian of course). I used vegan parm and it was wonderful!! Thank you.
I made this last night and it definitely needs more flavor as there are not enough spices and it is too dry (even with added pasta water, which adds no flavor). I suggest adding about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of broth or wine. I used rose wine, but you could try white wine, vermouth, or even sherry. For spices, try adding ground fennel seed, basil, or oregano. Also, adding some capers will help to enhance the flavors.
Dry? I think something went really wrong or you didn’t make the recipe as written. It is supposed to be made with very high quality hot Italian sausage which contains a lot of seasonings and red pepper flakes are added, along with oil packed sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. I appreciate critical feedback, but I’ve made this recipe 75+ times and there is absolutely NO way it should be dry or bland if prepared properly.
I made this dish last week and I so wish I had doubled it….this is fantastic! I used hot Italian sausage, and left out the red pepper flakes and olives. The tip for blanching the rabe really made the difference, so don’t skip it. I will make again this week, and be sure to double the recipe!
So glad you liked it!!! It’s one of my favorite pastas that we make regularly. ?
Is this a spicy (hot) dish w/ the inclusion of hot sausage and red pepper flakes? If so, how would you reduce (not omit so as to affect flavor) the heat? Use mild sausage or 1/2 the pepper flakes? Would you recommend using tortelinni as the pasta?
It is spicy, but not insanely spicy – granted, everyone’s taste preferences vary, so it is hard to say. I would reduce the additional red pepper flakes and perhaps use a mild sausage (if you’re sensitive). If you enjoy spicy Italian sausage, then I recommend using that and simply adding red pepper flakes to taste! Hope this helps!
Love making this recipe!! So easy and so delicious!!
One of my favorite dinners too! So glad you enjoyed it.
Hi Laura! I’m new to your blog and just wanted to say hello 🙂 This dish looks awesome! Orchiette are my favorite pasta. Here’s my spin on Orchiette with pancetta and mushrooms: http://www.findingsilverlinings.net/2014/11/06/orchiette-pasta-pancetta-mushrooms/
Pasta is my love language lol
Thank you so much Mindy!
This pasta was everything and more! My husband couldn’t stop raving about it! He even helped. All the flavors blended together so well. This is a keeper as we say.
I’m so thrilled to hear that Denise! Thank you so much for providing feedback! It seriously is one of my favorite everyday pasta recipes – and I can’t believe it took me this long to share.
This looks perfect… I’m in love with all these flavors. Great for a quick weeknight meal 🙂
Yum!!! Normally I’m not a huge fan of Italian sausage but you made it sound so irresistible that I really need to give this a try.
I love new ways to make pasta! And this recipe is on top of my list to try.
Sausage has become my new bacon for pastas and sauces. This recipe will be made this weekend! Gorgeous Laura!
Yay! Thanks Paula! Please let me know if you try it!
This looks fabulous and is making me hungry! Love all these pasta dishes and these gorgeous photos! I can practically smell it cooking!
I’m going BIG on all ingredients mentioned! Especially the garlic and red pepper flakes! Weekend plans finalized!
Thank you Tonya! Thrilled that you like it!
Seriously this is one of best classic combination of flavors. I want to cuddle up to a bowl of this pasta this weekend!! That broccoli rabe totally pops in your photos, beautiful!!
All the pasta please!!! You know I am all over this recipe! 🙂
Yum yum – I have most of these ingredients in my pantry! I love adding sausage to pasta, it reminds me of all those Italian dinners with my grandma. xo
O I just made a pasta recipe with broccoli rabe last night! I’ve gotta say it’s one fantastic combo 😉
It is the BEST combo! 🙂
Top five pasta recipes is a big claim!:)
It IS (especially for me!), but I stand behind that statement 😉