Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage is a hearty Italian pasta dish with a little spice. Orecchiette’s tender texture and curves catch the flavor from the kale pesto, Italian sausage, and flavorful rapini. Each bite of this rustic dish is an explosion of flavor. It’s an effortless pasta recipe that is sure to impress and make you feel like you’re in Italy!
About Orecchiette and Rapini
Orecchiette is made by forming small cubes of pasta dough. The dough is then dragged with a butter knife, which curls the dough and forms a cavatello. The cavatello is inverted and turned into an orecchiette, or a “little ear.” Orecchiette pasta is often made with only water and flour so the dough is sturdier, making them a perfect match for hearty vegetables like rapini (or broccoli rabe), cauliflower, and broccoli.
Rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, is a classic Italian vegetable. It is a vitamin-packed cruciferous green with a naturally bitter taste. Its semi-bitter taste pairs well with garlic cloves and crushed red pepper. My family often enjoys rapini with a roast, prime rib, or other rich meats that complement the vegetable. Since rapini is naturally bitter, you can blanch the vegetables for a couple of minutes in hot water to cut the bitter taste. The good news is that not all hope is lost for those who aren’t fans of broccoli rabe’s bitterness! The heat from the boiling water deactivates the enzymes that cause the bitter taste and allow its yummy green flavor to come through.
Orecchiette and rapini are delicious together. The hearty pasta’s natural curves and ridges catch the rapini and sausage juices, making each al dente bite flavorful.
How to Make Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage
Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage is a relatively easy pasta dish to make. The dish only takes 45 minutes to make. It is easy enough for a weeknight and impressive enough for a night of entertaining.
Equipment Needed to Make Pasta
To make Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage you will need a measuring cup and spoon; knife, and cutting board; a pot to boil water; a braiser, dutch oven, or thick-bottomed pan for the sausage; a blender or food processor to make pesto; a wooden spoon; and a serving bowl.
To explore more kitchen items to make your kitchen complete, head to my shop: Kat’s Kitchen Essentials.
Easy Steps to Make Pasta
- Blanch Rapini – Blanch the rapini in boiled water removes the bitterness. First, boil salted water in a large pot. Place the rapini in the water and cook for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the rapini and place it in a bowl. Save this water in the pot for pasta.
- Cook Sausage and Shallots – In a separate large pan, braiser, or Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add the shallots and sausage and use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces. Cook until the sausage is golden and crumbly in texture. Stir in the chili flakes, salt, and garlic to the sausage and cook until fragrant.
- Cook Pasta – Bring the pot of water back to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette to the water and cook until al dente. Before draining the water, reserve a cup of pasta water. Then, drain the pasta and set aside.
- Mix Ingredients – Add rapini, orecchiette, and pesto to the pan of sausage. Gently fold in the ingredients to evenly coat the orecchiette with pesto.
- Serve and Enjoy – Serve the pasta in bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve with parmigianno-reggiano.
Which Type of Pesto to Use
Pesto adds so much flavor to this dish. Its herby green and garlicky taste goes perfectly with the sausage and ties the dish together. For fresh homemade pesto, I recommend 5-Minute Kale Walnut Pesto or the more traditional 5-Minute Pesto. Either option is great with this pasta!
If you don’t feel like whipping up a fresh batch of pesto, I recommend a high-quality jarred pesto with simple ingredients, such as Rustichella D’ Abruzzo Pesto Alla Genovese Sauce.
Did You Like This Recipe?
If you enjoyed this recipe, please rate and comment below. For more weeknight pasta dinners like Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage, check out these recipes:
- Roasted Tomato Burrata Spaghetti
- Spaghetti Carbonara featuring Made In Cookware
- Healthy Penne alla Vodka
- Lemony Spring Risotto with Peas and Asparagus
Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage
- 1 lb Italian chicken sausage removed from casing
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp dried red chili flakes
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 bunch rapini or broccoli rabe tough stems removed and chopped into 4-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup pesto
- 1 lb orecchiette
- 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley chopped for serving
- Parmigianno-Reggiano for serving
- Add water to a large pot and 2 tablespoons of salt. Heat the water until it reaches a boil. Place the rapini in the water and cook for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the rapini and place it in a bowl. Save the water in the pot for pasta.
- In a separate large pan, braiser, or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add shallots and sausage to the pan and use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces. Cook until the sausage is cooked through and becomes golden and crumbly in texture, about 5-7 minutes.
- Stir in the chili flakes, salt, and garlic to the sausage and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Bring the pot of water back to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette to the water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Before draining the water, reserve a cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Add rapini, orecchiette, and pesto to the pan of sausage. Gently fold in the ingredients until the orecchiette is evenly coated with pesto.
- Serve the pasta in bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve with parmigianno-reggiano.
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