Tara Duggan’s Broccoli Stalk Orecchiette with Italian Sausage

We liked this one so much, we just made it again (with Lowell High School this time) – it’s a winner.
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If you eat a lot of broccoli, you can save up the leftover stalks for use in this recipe, or use a combination of stalks and florets, which is also a good option if you’d like to double the recipe. Cauliflower works well here too, and chopped black olives, capers, anchovies, and preserved lemon all make great additions.

3 cups (8 ounces) broccoli batons leaves, and florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces orecchiette pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
8 to 12 ounces uncooked Italian sausage (hot or mild), removed from its casing and cut into chunks
Kosher salt
Parmesan cheese to serve

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil.

Blanch the broccoli batons, leaves, and florets in the boiling water until crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a plate, then add the pasta to the water and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
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Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper. When it smells garlicky, after about 30 seconds, add the sausage. Sauté without stirring until the sausage pieces are browned on the bottom, then stir occasionally until browned, crisp, and cooked through, breaking up into smaller pieces, 8 to 10 minutes total.

When the broccoli is cooked and drained, add it to the sausage and cook, stirring, until integrated with the sauce, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the pan and stir in enough of the pasta cooking water to form a sauce, then stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and more red pepper flakes to taste. Serve right away in pasta bowls with a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 2 to 3