Sausage and broccoli rabe seem like an odd pair, but they do really play well together. There's something about the slightly fatty and spicy kick of the Italian sausage interacting with the bitter greens. I've already done a fairly straightforward version, which I would happily make again. But I figured I'd branch out and see what else this inspired pair could do.
For help I turned to Martha Stewart. She rolls the sausage into little mini meatballs, adds a quick tomato sauce, then bakes everything until browned and bubbling. I don't make many baked pastas, but this one works. Even though there is melted cheese, it never feels heavy or greasy. But again, it's the interplay between the sausage that really makes this dish.
About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is a freelance writer in Chicago. He is the co-founder of The Paupered Chef and spends most of his time playing with the new cooking gadgets he got from his wedding.
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from casing
- 1/2 pound rigatoni
- 1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stalk removed
- 2 ounces mozzarella
- Butter, enough to rub casserole dish
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pour the oil into a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes. Dump in the tomatoes and the oregano and thyme. Cook, breaking up the large pieces of tomato with a wooden spoon, for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe. Add to the water and cook for about 1 minute. Remove with some tongs and drain in a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.
Return the large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than the package says. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
Form the Italian sausage into 1-inch balls. Saute them in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. There should be enough fat from the sausage, but if the meat sticks then add a drizzle of oil. Cook until browned on a all sides. Add to the tomato sauce.
Rub some butter on the inside of a casserole dish. Dump in the pasta and broccoli rabe. Pour on the sauce. Top with a sprinkling of the mozzarella. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling.