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Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe: A Flavorful Italian Pasta Dish

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Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is a classic Italian pasta dish that combines hearty cavatelli pasta with savory Italian sausage, tender broccoli rabe, garlic, and a touch of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. This dish exemplifies the rustic and comforting flavors of Southern Italian cuisine, offering a perfect balance of textures and flavors that will satisfy both pasta lovers and enthusiasts of Italian cooking. Let’s explore the origins of this dish and how to prepare it step by step.

Introduction to Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, known as “Cavatelli con Salsiccia e Broccoli di Rapa” in Italian, hails from the regions of Southern Italy, particularly Campania and Puglia. It showcases the culinary tradition of combining simple, fresh ingredients to create dishes that are both flavorful and satisfying. The robust flavors of the sausage complement the slightly bitter taste of broccoli rabe, while garlic and red pepper flakes add layers of depth and spice. This dish is a favorite in Italian-American kitchens and is enjoyed year-round for its comforting appeal.

Ingredients

For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound (450g) cavatelli pasta (fresh or dried)
  • Salt for boiling water

For the Sauce:

  • 1 pound (450g) Italian sausage (mild or hot), casings removed
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

1. Prepare the Cavatelli:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the cavatelli pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

2. Cook the Italian Sausage:

  • In a large skillet or frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Italian sausage, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula as it cooks, until browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.

3. Prepare the Broccoli Rabe:

  • In the same skillet, add a bit more olive oil if needed. Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the broccoli rabe to the skillet, stirring to coat it in the garlic and oil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the broccoli rabe is tender-crisp.

4. Combine the Ingredients:

  • Return the cooked sausage to the skillet with the broccoli rabe. Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth, stirring to combine all the ingredients. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

5. Toss with Cavatelli:

  • Add the cooked cavatelli pasta to the skillet with the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture. Toss everything together gently, adding a splash of reserved pasta cooking water if needed to loosen the sauce and coat the pasta evenly.

6. Serve:

  • Divide the Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe among serving plates or bowls. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Serve hot, accompanied by crusty Italian bread and a simple green salad.

Tips for Success

  • Broccoli Rabe Preparation: Blanching the broccoli rabe briefly in boiling water before adding it to the skillet can help reduce its bitterness if desired.
  • Sausage Varieties: Experiment with different types of Italian sausage, such as mild or spicy, to adjust the heat level according to your preference.
  • Cheese Choice: Pecorino Romano cheese can be used instead of Parmesan for a sharper flavor profile.
  • Make-Ahead Option: Prepare the components of the dish ahead of time and combine just before serving to maintain optimal texture and flavor.

Conclusion

Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe offers a delightful combination of pasta, savory sausage, and tender broccoli rabe in a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. This dish reflects the rustic charm and culinary heritage of Southern Italian cuisine, celebrating the simplicity and freshness of its ingredients. Whether enjoyed as a comforting weeknight meal or served at a festive gathering, Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe invites you to savor the robust flavors and cultural richness of Italian cooking. Embrace the tradition of homemade pasta dishes and indulge in the satisfying flavors of Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe for a truly memorable dining experience.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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