Thursday, March 22, 2012

Penne with Broccoli Rabe and Spicy Italian Sausage

Hello again faithful readers! I realize it's been awhile since I've written a new entry, and that's because I've been busy training for a new job: docent at the Intel Museum, which is a great fit, since (I'm sure you can tell) I'm a bit of a know-it-all. As promised, here is one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time!

If there is a theme emerging from my latest foray into blogging, it is this: good, clean, simple flavors, in concert with a few key complementary flavors, make for the best dishes. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I find complex dishes, such as bolognese sauce, with its minimum of three hours of cook time, to also be largely worth their effort; however, when I think of basic staple recipes, dishes I love to cook and consume and consider comfort food, those recipes are often simple. A great example is the lovely marriage of flavors between the spice and vague liquorish-y flavor of Italian pork sausage and the also (very) vague liquorish flavor of broccoli rabe or broccolini--they serve as an excellent counterpoint to the earthy richness of garlic infused olive oil.  If I'm so moved (and they're in season), I'll throw in a chopped roma tomato or three.  It changes the subtle sauce, but can really be a wonderful in season addition. The key to making simple dishes taste phenomenal is to source their few ingredients carefully. I always purchase my Italian sausage from a retailer that promises responsible farming and food handling practices if I'm not lucky enough at a given time to live near a good butcher who makes spicy Italian sausages. I also prefer to purchase my broccoli rabe (or broccolini) from a farmer's market, and barring that I always buy organic. My garlic is organic (when available), as well. My olive is extra virgin organic olive oil made by Spectrum (available online, in health food stores, and also in Whole Foods). I also like to try to select a pasta from a company I have had good experiences with in the past, in terms of taste and construction. The recipe which follows is beautiful in its simplicity and an absolutely lovely offering in a pinch. It's also one of Josh's favorite dishes.

Fusilli with Broccoli Rabe and Spicy Italian Sausage

1 lb. fusilli pasta
1 lb. or 1 bunch broccoli rabe (also called broccolini), chopped into 1.5" pieces.
3 large Italian sausages (roughly 2/3 to 3/4 lb.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic minced or put through a press
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a large saucepan over low heat, combine garlic and olive oil and a dash of salt. Cook for ten minutes to infuse the olive oil with garlic. If you notice the garlic turning at all darker, you have the heat too high.
2. Remove sausage casings and crumble meat inside; add to pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook until sausages are browned and starting to ooze fat.
3. Put up salted water to cook pasta and add pasta when it is boiling.
4. Add broccoli rabe, more salt and pepper to taste to saucepan with sausage and garlic. At this point I like to cover the saucepan to allow the broccoli rabe to steam in its own moisture, but feel free to leave it uncovered and sautee the broccoli rabe; in any case, your broccoli should take about as much time to cook as the fusilli does to boil.
5. Before draining pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
6. Drain pasta and toss with ingredients in pan and reserved pasta water.
7. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan and minced fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, if you have it on hand.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

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