Orecchiete with Broccoli and Sausage

Orechiette are hollow ear shaped pasta that trap the other ingredients when it is tossed together. Other small pastas that would work with this are shells or farfalles.

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

Salt

1 1/2 lb. broccoli crown and leaves, trimmed into small bite sized pieces

1 lb. orechiette

1/2 lb. Italian sausage, casing discarded and meat coarsely chopped

4 large cloves garlic, minced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup Grana Padano or other Parmesan cheese


In a frying pan over medium heat, warm 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with oil. Season lightly with salt and cook stirring often, until the crumbs are an even, deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Pour into a plate and set aside to cool.


Bring a large pot 3/4 full of water to a rolling boil and add 2 tsp. salt. Add the broccoli and cook, testing often, until just tender. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the broccoli into a sieve and cool it quickly under running cold water. Drain and squeeze gently to remove excess moisture. Add the orecchiette to the boiling water, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.


Meanwhile, warm the remaining olive oil in the frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli and stir to combine with the sausage. Cook until the broccoli is hot throughout, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt.


When the orechiette is ready, scoop out and reserve about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sausage mixture and the cheese and stir and toss well over low heat to combine, adjusting the constituency with some of the cooking water if needed.


Transfer the pasta mixture to a large platter and top with a generous sprinkle of toasted bread crumbs. Pass the remaining bread crumbs at the table.