Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Recipe

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A classic Italian pasta dish that comes together in 30 minutes! Tasty Italian sausage, vibrant broccoli, and perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta come together to create a mouthwatering pasta meal even picky eaters will love!

You will also love riagatoni with sausage and broccoli.

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Easy Orecchiette Pasta Recipe

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli is a classic Italian dish, particularly popular in the southern regions of Italy. You will love how flavorful it tastes and how easy it is to make. I love to use broccolini if you can find it!

This is a recipe the whole family will love. It’s an easy recipe to make on a busy weeknight without the fuss.

More Italian pasta dishes for you.

portion of orecchiette pasta dish in a white and blue Italian bowl. Fork in bowl ready to eat.

Simple Ingredients

This quick and delicious pasta meal only takes a handful of ingredients.

ingredient shot.
  • Orecchiette Pasta: Small, little ear-shaped pasta that’s perfect for catching the flavors of the sauce. It’s a fun pasta shape you’ll love.
  • Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage: Seasoned ground pork, either sweet or hot, depending on your preference. The casing is removed before cooking.
  • Broccoli or Broccoli Rabe, or Brocollini: Blanched to soften before being added to the dish.
  • Garlic: A pungent, aromatic ingredient that adds depth and flavor to the dish.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Adds a hint of heat and spice to the dish.
  • Extra-virgin Olive Oil: High-quality olive oil for sautéing and flavoring.
  • Salt: Enhances the overall taste of the dish.
  • Black Pepper: Adds a touch of warmth and complements the other flavors.
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese: A hard, salty Italian cheese grated and used as a finishing touch. Or, use Parmiggiano Regiano (parmsean cheese).
  • Reserved Pasta Water: The water in which the pasta is cooked, reserved and used as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce. It contains starch that helps to thicken the yummy sauce.

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to make Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli (Step-by-Step Photos)

Here is the simple process for this hearty pasta dish. See the recipe card for printable recipe. You will have a delicious dinner in under 30 minutes.

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: blanch and chop the broccolini.

Prepare Broccoli: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, until slightly tender. Chop the blanched broccoli into bite-sized pieces and set aside. 

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: fry the sausage in olive oil.

Cook Sausage: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: browned sausage in pan.

Cook until browned and cooked through about 6 minutes.

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: browned sausage in pan with garlic.

Add Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes: Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Sauté for about 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the favor from the brown bits. 

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: add cooked broccoli to the sausage.

Combine Ingredients: add broccoli to the skillet with the sausage mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: add cooked orecchiette pasta and pasta water to the broccoli to the sausage.

Cook Orecchiette: Cook the orecchiette pasta in the same pot of boiling water according to package instructions until al dente—reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. 

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: add parmigiano cheese to the cooked broccoli to the sausage.

Combine Pasta and Sauce: Add the cooked orecchiette and pasta water to the skillet, tossing to combine, add the cheese and toss to coat the pasta in the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture. 

how to make Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli- step-by-step: mix everything together in pan until well combined.

Serve: Serve hot, garnished with extra freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

wooden spoon taking a portion of the prepared pasta to serve.

Substitutions

  • Sausage Substitutions:
    • Vegetarian: Replace the sausage with plant-based alternatives like vegetarian sausage or crumbled tofu seasoned with Italian herbs.
    • Chicken or Turkey Sausage: Opt for leaner poultry sausages for a lighter version.
  • Pasta Options:
    • Gluten-Free: Choose a gluten-free pasta option, such as rice-based or corn-based pasta, to make the dish gluten-free.
    • Whole Wheat: For a healthier alternative, use whole wheat orecchiette or any whole wheat pasta.
    • Another variety: if you don’t have this type of pasta on hand, use any short pasta!
  • Leafy Greens:
    • Spinach: If broccoli rabe is unavailable, substitute with fresh spinach for a milder flavor.
    • Kale: Use kale as a heartier alternative, remembering to remove tough stems before cooking.
    • Broccoli Florets: these are always an easy swap!
portion of orecchiette pasta dish in a white and blue Italian bowl. Extra parmigiano on top as garnish.

Variations

While the traditional Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli is delicious, you can always get creative with variations to suit your taste. Here are a few ideas:

  • Tomato Twist:
    • Add a can of diced tomatoes or cherry tomatoes to the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture for a touch of acidity and sweetness.
  • Creamy Delight:
    • Create a creamy version by stirring in a bit of heavy cream or cream cheese at the end of cooking.
  • Lemon Zest:
    • Brighten up the dish by adding some fresh lemon zest before serving. It adds a burst of citrus flavor.
  • Vegetarian Option:
    • Skip the sausage and substitute with cannellini beans or sautéed mushrooms for a vegetarian twist.

Storage and Reheating

Storage:

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reheating:

  • Reheat in a pan on the stove over medium heat, adding a splash of water or broth to prevent dryness. Alternatively, use a microwave, stirring occasionally.
portion of orecchiette pasta dish in a white and blue Italian bowl.

Top tips

  • Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality, fresh ingredients for the best flavor.
  • Balanced Flavors: Balance the savory sausage with the slightly bitter taste of broccoli rabe. Adjust salt, pepper, and spice levels to taste.
  • Cook Pasta Al Dente: Cook the pasta al dente to ensure the right texture and prevent it from becoming mushy.
  • Save Pasta Water: Save some pasta water before draining. It contains starch that helps bind the sauce to the pasta.
  • Properly Cook Broccoli Rabe: Blanch broccoli rabe until slightly tender to maintain a pleasant texture.
  • Sear Sausage Well: Sear the sausage well for a flavorful base. Browned bits on the pan add depth to the sauce.
  • Freshly Grated Cheese: Grate Pecorino Romano fresh for the best taste and texture.
  • Adjust Consistency: Use reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce as needed.

FAQ

What’s the difference between Pecorino Romano and Parmesan?

Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk, offering a saltier and tangier flavor compared to the milder cow’s milk-based Parmesan.

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cover photo.

Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 12 reviews

A classic Italian pasta dish that comes together in 30 minutes! Tasty Italian sausage, vibrant broccoli, and perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta come together to create a mouthwatering pasta meal even picky eaters will love!

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 pound (about 450g) orecchiette pasta
  • 1 pound (about 450g) sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 bunch broccoli, broccolini, broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • Reserved pasta water

Instructions

  1. Prepare Broccoli: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, until slightly tender. Chop the blanched broccoli into bite-sized pieces and set aside. 
  2. Cook Sausage: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook until browned and cooked through about 6 minutes.
  3. Add Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes: Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Sauté for about 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the favor from the brown bits. 
  4. Combine Ingredients: add broccoli to the skillet with the sausage mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
  5. Cook Orecchiette: Cook the orecchiette pasta in the same pot of boiling water according to package instructions until al dente—reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. 
  6. Combine Pasta and Sauce: Add the cooked orecchiette and pasta water to the skillet, tossing to combine, add the cheese and toss to coat the pasta in the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture. 
  7. Serve: Serve hot, garnished with extra freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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27 Comments

  1. so much flavor, so good yet, so easy. Better than my parents made it. Easy for last minute meal or just because you like it.






  2. Yes I made this tonight was excellent and will make it again – I have made other of your recipes all so delicious ❤️🇨🇦🇮🇹