Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Serving Size: 4
Prep Time:
Total Time:

Here's a word to add to your pasta vocabulary: orecchiette, which means "little ears." Paired with (high-fat) pork sausage, this dish is a staple of Italian-American menus. Here I've used lean ground pork (much leaner than pork sausage) seasoned with fennel seed to deliver the sausage flavor without the added fat and calories. Concetta Vacca was amazed at how clearly all the flavors came through in my version, which featured a light yet super-flavorful broth. 

Best known in Italy, broccoli rabe (pronounced rahb), aka broccoli raap, rapini, or broccoli di rape, just may be suffering from an identity crisis. Not only is this bitter green vegetable known by several different names, it's actually not even broccoli. Although broth broccoli and broccoli rabe are members of the Brassica family, broccoli rabe is actually a closer relative to the turnip than its distant cousin and namesake. Whatever you choose to call it, broccoli rabe packs a nutritional punch, supplying your body with ample amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A and K.


  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth, such as Swanson's
  • 4 Ounce lean ground pork
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, finely chopped
  • 0.125 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cup broccoli rabe, cut into 1-inch pieces (large stems discarded), 1 to 2 bunches
  • 6 Ounce whole wheat orecchiette, such as Delallo
  • 1 Ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated



Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the orecchiette and cook about 1 minute less than the package directions for al dente.Add the broccoli rabe and cook for 1 minute. Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes; then add the red pepper flakes. Add the fennel seeds, then quickly add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Add the broccoli rabe and pasta to the skillet, tossing to coat evenly with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add three-quarters of the Parmigiano.

Spoon the pasta and broth into 4 bowls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano.

Tips: Cook the orecchiette very al dente, because this pasta has a tendency to break up when cooked with the chicken stock and broccoli rabe.

If the pasta is too brothy for your taste, use 1 cup of broth instead of 2 cups.

Check out the video playlist above to watch Rocco make this recipe.

In "Now Eat This! Italy," watch New York Times best-selling author and celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito as he travels to Italy to learn how to make all our favorite Italian dishes from the real Mamas of Italy like lasagna Bolognese with Lucia Ercolano, Spaghetti Vongole with Daniella Miccio and Insalata Caprese with Maria Ercolano. In this unique intersection of travel, adventure, culinary and healthy Rocco answers the question, "Can you eat pasta and lose weight?"

Produced: 2013 By: Savory Place Media