Pasta with Broccolini, Sausage, + Lemon

Pasta with Sausage and Broccolini or Broccoli Rabe is a classic Italian dish, and it’s popular for a reason. It’s flavorful, quick, and comes together with simple ingredients. Plus, it’s a great way to use up seasonal greens. This dish is made with Orecchiette, a dried pasta named after its shape, which resembles a little ear. It’s a bite-sized pasta and here, it cradles caramelized bits of sausage, bright broccolini, and creamy parmesan. I add lemon zest and juice for a bright and fresh counterpoint but if lemon isn't your thing just leave it out.

This dish comes together with a few simple steps, which makes it weeknight-friendly. To make, you’ll cook ground Italian sausage in a dutch oven or skillet until browned, then saute onions and garlic in the same pan for added flavor. While the sausage and aromatics cook, you’ll boil water in another pot to quickly cook the broccolini, and then you’ll cook your pasta in the same water. Once everything is ready, toss it all together with lemon zest and juice, as well as grated parm and pasta water for creaminess. Be sure to check out my notes on riffs, swaps, and subs under the recipe details – perhaps it’ll save you a trip to the store or provide some inspiration on ways to make it your own.

Pasta with Broccolini, Sausage, + Lemon

Meet your new weeknight dinner hero: Pasta with Broccolini, Sausage + Lemon. Add this quick and flavorful recipe to your rotation stat.

Prep:
10
min
cook:
20
min
total:
35
min
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb fresh Italian sausage - I do half spicy half mild (see notes in Riffs)
  • 1 lb broccolini/baby broccoli/ broccoli rabe
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • zest of 1 small lemon, about 2.5 teaspoons
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon plus more if desired
  • 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • up to 2 cups of pasta cooking water
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • optional: toasted breadcrumbs for serving

Instructions
Crisp the sausage + cook the aromatics
  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
  2. Trim the tougher ends of the broccolini stems off, about 2 inches or so, and discard. Roughly chop the rest of the broccolini, set aside.
  3. While the water comes to a boil, in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground sausage, break up with a wooden spoon, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Use a wooden spoon to move the cooked sausage to the edge of the pot, and add onion. Add another glug of olive oil if needed and season generously with kosher salt. Saute the onions for several minutes until soft, stirring occasionally to lift up the caramelized brown bits in the pot.
  5. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about a minute. The sausage should be golden brown, and the onions and garlic should be soft. Turn off the heat entirely and set aside.
Blanch broccolini + cook the pasta
  1. When the water is boiling, add the broccolini and cook in water for about 2-3 minutes. Use a wire mesh skimmer, handheld strainer, or tongs, remove the broccolini from the water, and transfer into a colander to let the broccolini cool and set aside (save the water in the pot for your pasta).
  2. Bring the water back up to a boil, and cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, as you'll finish cooking the pasta in the other pot with the sausage. Before you drain the pasta, set aside 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, which makes the base of your sauce.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to pot with sausage, onion, garlic. Add broccolini, stir, and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes to incorporate all ingredients, stirring constantly.
Finish + serve
  1. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water, lemon zest, lemon juice, grated parmesan cheese, and toss for a minute or two, until ingredients are incorporated and the pasta water has reduced slightly to make a creamy sauce. Season with more lemon juice, grated parm, and kosher salt to taste. If pasta needs to be saucier, add the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and stir until creamy.
  2. Serve while warm and top with more grated parmesan cheese, and cracked black pepper.
  3. Optional: Add crushed red chili flakes for a little heat and toasted breadcrumbs for crunch before serving.

Let's riff
  • The Sausage: Use *fresh* ground bulk Italian sausage or fresh Italian sausage links and take them out of the casing before cooking. I prefer half spicy half mild, but do all mild or all spicy if preferred. Chicken or turkey sausage work as well if you're not big on pork. In a pinch, any ground meat plus a few generous pinches of Italian seasoning will get the job done, too.
  • The Broccolini: Broccoli Rabe, Baby Broccoli or Broccolini are recommended. Swap in regular broccoli if desired and cut into small, bite sized pieces. Kale is also in the brassica family, and chopped lacinato kale works here very well in this recipe – to use it, remove leafy greens from the stems, give them a rough chop, and add them to the skillet after the onions.
  • The Pasta: Orchiette is standard and preferred – it’s shape perfectly cradles the creamy sauce and catches little pieces of broccoli and sausage in every bite. Any short pasta with nooks and crannies will work. Try fusili, rigatoni, casarecce, small shells, conchigle, or trumpets.
  • The Onions + Garlic: Sub in leeks, red onion, or shallot in place of yellow onion if you’ve got ‘em.
  • The Gluten-Free Swaps: Use your favorite gf pasta, I like Banza.
  • The Vegan + Vegetarian Swaps: Omit sausage if needed and add about 2 teaspoons roughly chopped dried fennel seeds and a few pinches dried oregano with the onions and garlic. Omit the parm to keep it dairy free, and sub in nutritional yeast for a similar punch of flavor.

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Richard
February 22, 2024
send me fruits to add with another fruit to cure disease
Deneen Medland
April 17, 2023
Kelle Trouton
April 17, 2023
Caroline
January 23, 2023
I made this same amazing salad with the following additions: I used a bed of chopped romaine hearts, and squeezed the juice of all the trimmed cara cara oranges, plus 1/2 lemon, added a drizzled of Tupelo honey on top. The herbs: chopped fennel fronds and mint. Everyone went crazy for it!
Marcus
YUM! Definitely going to pair this with a nice and funky natty white next time!
Caroline
January 23, 2023
I made this same amazing salad with the following additions: I used a bed of chopped romaine hearts, and squeezed the juice of all the trimmed cara cara oranges, plus 1/2 lemon, added a drizzled of Tupelo honey on top. The herbs: chopped fennel fronds and mint. Everyone went crazy for it!