This Orecchiette with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe is a delicious and healthy pasta dish that comes together in just 30 minutes!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Orecchiette – these “little ears” collect all of the great flavours of this dish, but you can use any shape of pasta you like.
- Broccoli rabe – if the broccoli rabe is too bitter for you or if you can’t find it in the store, use baby broccoli, spinach, chard or mustard greens instead.
- Ground turkey – you could also make the sausage using ground pork.
- Fennel seeds – ground fennel would also work if you don’t have any fennel seeds on hand.
- Paprika – cayenne would be the best substitute here.
- Onion powder – finely minced onion or even garlic powder can be used instead.
- Salt & pepper – to taste.
- Olive oil – or any neutral cooking oil like canola oil or avocado oil.
- Garlic – you can use garlic flakes or powder instead but you may sacrifice on a bit of flavour.
- Chicken broth – vegetable broth would also work.
- Lemon juice and lemon zest – white wine brings brightness to the dish if you don’t have any lemon on hand.
- Parmesan cheese – don’t give up the cheese! Asiago or Romano cheese will add the same rich creaminess and tang that parmesan does.
- Chili flakes – if you don’t want the extra heat, leave the chili flakes out altogether.
How to make orecchiette
- Make the turkey sausage.
- Cook the pasta.
- Add in the broccoli rabe.
- Brown the turkey sausage.
- Mix everything together.
- Serve with parmesan and chili flakes.
Making the homemade sausage
The best part of homemade sausage is that you know exactly what goes in it, so it can be a lot healthier than store-bought sausage. To make this homemade sausage, use a high-quality ground meat with a higher percentage of fat in it. Using 80/20, or even 75/25, will keep your sausage moist as you cook it.
I used ground turkey for this pasta to make the recipe even healthier, but you can swap out the ground turkey for ground pork. Feel free to add in different seasonings like dried sage, thyme or basil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Orecchiette is made of durum wheat and water. It’s typically served with meat such as pork, rapini and a white wine sauce. For this recipe, I used homemade turkey sausage, broccoli rabe (also known as rapini) and a simple sauce made using chicken broth, lemon juice and parmesan.
Just like any other pasta, you cook orecchiette in boiling water! I suggest checking the cooking instructions on the package, but typically orecchiette will need to cook for 7-9 minutes.
Orecchiette is an Italian word that means ‘little ears’ in English, since the pasta was named after the shape’s resemblance to ears.
Broccoli rabe is meant to be mostly stems, so don’t cut them all off; every part is edible. Clean the broccoli rabe and separate any long stems that are connected. Then, cut off any ends that may have turned brown. Make your cuts up to 1 inch from the bottom of the stems.
Storing and reheating
You can keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, sprinkle some water over top so the pasta doesn’t dry out then microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add on some fresh parmesan and the dish will be as good as new!
Freezing this recipe
This pasta dish is definitely freezer-friendly! After it’s cooked, you can store it in airtight glass containers or freezer-safe bags for up to 3 months. If you plan on freezing this dish for later, I recommend cooking the orecchiette to just under al dente. That way, when you reheat it, it will cook through the rest of the way and won’t get all mushy.
Blanch the broccoli rabe separately and freeze it on its own or cook it fresh when you are ready to prepare the whole dish.
When you’re ready to enjoy this pasta, let it defrost in the fridge overnight then reheat it in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave. If you’re microwaving, make sure to sprinkle some water over top so the pasta doesn’t dry out.
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Meal prep tools for this recipe
- Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on storing the leftovers.
- I get all my free-range ground turkey from Butcher Box, conveniently delivered to me frozen.
Orecchiette with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe
- 1 lb oreccheitte
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp each salt & pepper, divided
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 7-9 minutes. Add broccoli rabe in the last 2 minutes of cook time then drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, mix fennel seeds, paprika, onion powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper with ground turkey in a large bowl.
- Heat olive oil in the same pot, then add ground turkey mixture, breaking up with a spoon. Cook for 5 minutes until browned. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add pasta and broccoli rabe back to pot, then add chicken broth, lemon juice, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper, parmesan cheese and chili flakes, sauteeing for another 2 minutes.
- Serve with extra parmesan cheese and chili flakes and enjoy!