Friday, February 21, 2014

Orecchiette with Sausage

I thought I was choosing a simple recipe. I thought it was going to be a quick Monday-night-after-work prep. 

Oh but no. 

I bought the ingredients in advance, except there was no broccoli rabe where we usually shop. So I intended to stop at another place on Monday on my way home to get broccoli rabe. Except that when I went there, I managed to purchase 6 other things and forgot the broccoli rabe. So my sweet husband kindly agreed to go back to purchase it after he got home from a long day at school. Except they actually didn't have broccoli rabe there either, so we ended up with broccoli. Which is fine, but it doesn't so much cook like broccoli rabe. So my timing and logistics were all conflustered. And then there was the orecchiette disaster. You can read more about that below. 

Suffice it to say, this recipe did not go well for us. However, I still think it's a rather simple recipe, and should you actually have broccoli rabe and know how to not fail at cooking orecchiette, you should assuredly be fine. And I will say, despite all the issues, in the end our meal tasted alright, it just wasn't so much the most wonderful process.

So. Orecchiette with Sausage from The World Kitchen.

Our toasted bread crumbs:

Cooking the sausage:

The infamous pasta:

The failed orecchiette:

And the final product:

The original recipe:

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1.5 lb broccoli rabe, trimmed
1 lb orecchiette, conchigliette, or other shell pasta
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausages, casings discarded and meat coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano or Parmesan cheese

In a frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the tbsp olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with the oil. Season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are an even, deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Pour onto a plate and set aside to cool.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, testing often, until the stems are just tender, 2-3 minutes. Using tongs or a wire-mesh skimmer, lift out the broccoli rabe into a sieve and cool it quickly under running cold water. Drain and squeeze gently to remove excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, warm the 1/3 cup olive oil in the frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the sausage, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and stir to combine with the sausage. Cook until the broccoli rabe is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

When the orecchiette is ready, scoop out and reserve about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sausage mixture and the cheese to the pot and stir over low heat to combine, adjusting the consistency with some of the cooking water if needed.

Divide among warmed plates, top eat portion with a sprinkle of toasted bread crumbs, and serve at once. Pass the remaining crumbs at the table. 

Our thoughts and notes:

As I said, we weren't able to acquire broccoli rabe. And our timing was kind of funny, so I just ended up cooking the broccoli in a separate pan with a bit of oil, rather than boiling it and then adding it to the sausage. That worked well enough, but just be careful not to let it burn.

I used a ground mild italian sausage, not in casings, and that worked well. 

What happened with the orecchiette is that all the shells got stacked and stuck together, so they didn't cook properly. Some were solo shells, some were group 2, 6, or 12 high. Womp womp. Now. Despite stirring the pasta soon after pouring it in the boiling water, I think we did not have a large enough pot for the quantity of pasta, so it did not have much space to separate. By the time I realized the problem, it was too late. We tried to stir, we tried to use tongs to pull the big clumps apart, but to no avail. When we poured it out in the colander, we thought there were enough properly cooked solo shells, so we literally stood at the sink digging through the hot pasta and pulling out single shells.  It was quite comical, really. At least we could chuckle about it together. 

In short, if you make this, I would suggest using a large pot and be sure to stir it quite a bit when you pour in the orecchiette. Or just use some other kind of pasta. Which is what we did the second night.   

This made about 5 servings.

If you make this as directed, let us know how it turns out!

Buon appetito!

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