Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage is one of those classic Italian pasta dishes. Not that I grew up anything like it—I can't imagine my younger self dealing well with the notoriously bitter vegetable. But after years of drinking Negronis, I've grown to love the sensation, just so long as it is balanced by something else. In this dish, fat and heat from the spicy sausage plays the foil.
I thought there was nothing left to say about the dish until a recent visit to Baffo, the new fine dining joint in Eataly Chicago. Along with all the usual elements, a smear of bright green pesto was added. Why mess with the classic? Well, the pesto helps round off some of the sharper edges, while also lightening each bite up with fresh herbs. It's kind of a genius move, and one I felt no shame in stealing for this recipe.
Though the pasta recipe is straightforward, I loosely based some of the proportions on this recipe from Lidia Bastianich. Pesto also happens to be a breeze to make. I just followed this solid version from Joshua Bousel's Sauced column.