Broccoli rabe and sausage seem like a marriage made in heaven. They go well together with pasta or on a loaf of Italian bread. The broccoli and sausage pieces get into the crevices of the pasta, and when they’re served on bread, the olive oil is immediately soaked up. Even though the bitter and unfamiliar broccoli rabe might not have been an American favorite a few decades ago, when it first appeared in California’s Salinas Valley, it certainly has become a favorite ingredient for Italians and Americans today.
¼ cup olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon salt, plus 1 tablespoon for the pasta water
1 pound ziti
½ pound sweet Italian sausage, meat removed from casings and crumbled
2 pounds broccoli rabe, cleaned and cut
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep, heavy skillet with a fitted lid, then toss in the garlic and sauté, uncovered, until golden, about 2 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. When you are ready, and the water is boiling, add the ziti to the pot and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, add the sausage meat to the oil and garlic, and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, 1 cup pasta-boiling water, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the pepper flakes; cover, and steam 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook the sauce uncovered over high heat for about 3 minutes, until the liquids are slightly reduced. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce, and toss gently. Sprinkle on half of the cheese, toss again, and distribute the remaining cheese over the pasta. Serve immediately.