We love making this orecchiette pasta on cold winter nights! Broccoli rabe, caramelized onions, and sun-dried tomatoes fill it with bold flavor.
The first time I made this orecchiette pasta recipe, I intended to eat a bowl of it for lunch. I did end up eating it for lunch that day, but a bowl never entered the picture. Instead, I stood at the stove, eating forkful after forkful of orecchiette straight from the skillet!
The recipe is my plant-based riff on a classic Italian pasta dish – orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. I adore broccoli rabe, especially in the wintertime. It’s vibrant and nourishing, and it has a distinct bitter and peppery flavor. I often serve it as a side dish, but I wanted to find a way to feature it in a larger recipe for the blog.
Enter: this orecchiette pasta! In it, the bitter broccoli rabe plays off sweet caramelized onions and savory sun-dried tomatoes. As I had hoped, the dish is a fantastic showcase of my beloved broccoli rabe. Better yet, it’s a delicious dinner for a winter weeknight.
Orecchiette Recipe Ingredients
Ready to cook? Here’s what you’ll need:
- Orecchiette, of course! I love the way this tiny ear-shaped pasta cups around the other ingredients.
- Plant-based Italian sausage – I don’t cook with plant-based meat substitutes often, so when I do, I feel that they contribute something essential to the final dish. Here, the sausage adds hearty, meaty texture and rich savory flavor.
- Broccoli rabe – It adds delicious bitter flavor and vibrant color to this pasta dish.
- Caramelized onions – If you don’t already have caramelized onions on hand, making them will be your first step. The process takes about an hour, but you can prep them well in advance. They keep in the fridge for up to a week!
- Sun-dried tomatoes – They amp up the savory flavor.
- Garlic – For sharp depth of flavor.
- White wine – It gives the pasta complexity and tang.
- Lemon juice and zest – For brightness.
- Pine nuts – For crunch!
Toss it all with crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to make the flavors pop! Finish the pasta with a shower of Parmesan cheese, or, if you’re vegan, skip it. This orecchiette pasta is plenty flavorful without it.
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Orecchiette Pasta Serving Suggestions
Thanks to the sausage and broccoli rabe, this orecchiette is hearty and satisfying. Jack and I often enjoy it as a meal on its own, but it’s also excellent with a salad on the side. For a quick, easy, and delicious salad, toss mixed greens with lemon vinaigrette, Italian dressing, or Greek salad dressing. The orecchiette would also pair nicely with these salad recipes:
- Homemade Caesar Salad
- Green Bean Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Pear Salad with Balsamic and Walnuts
- Citrus Salad with Fennel and Avocado
More Favorite Pasta Recipes
If you love this orecchiette recipe, try one of these hearty pastas next:
- Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- Linguine with Lemon and Tomatoes
- Butternut Squash Ravioli
- Fettuccini Alfredo
- Easy Baked Ziti
- Best Vegetarian Lasagna
- Or any of these 25 Easy Pasta Recipes!
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
- 3 Plant-Based Italian Sausages*
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ bunches broccoli rabe
- 8 ounces dry orecchiette pasta
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese**
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 caramelized onions
- 8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- Break the sausages into small pieces. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium, brush with ½ teaspoon of olive oil and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until well-browned. Remove and set aside.
- Trim ½ inch off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water. Drop the broccoli rabe into the boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Scoop out the broccoli rabe, reserving the boiling water. Drain and place onto a clean kitchen towel. Pat dry and chop into 1-inch pieces.
- Bring the pot of water back to a boil, add more salt, and cook the pasta according to package directions or until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the starchy pasta water.
- When the pasta has about a minute left, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and broccoli rabe and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine, cook for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to scoop the pasta directly from the pasta pot into the skillet.
- Add the reserved pasta water, cheese, lemon juice, zest, red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper and stir to combine. Stir in the cooked sausage, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and top with the pine nuts. Season to taste and serve.