Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

We love making this orecchiette pasta on cold winter nights! Broccoli rabe, caramelized onions, and sun-dried tomatoes fill it with bold flavor.

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe

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

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.

Chopped broccoli rabe

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:

Round out the meal with focaccia, dinner rolls, or good crusty bread. Enjoy!

Orecchiette

More Favorite Pasta Recipes

If you love this orecchiette recipe, try one of these hearty pastas next:

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

rate this recipe:
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Serves 4
This orecchiette pasta is a delicious, satisfying winter meal! If you don't already have caramelized onions on hand, cooking them will be your first step. The process takes around an hour, but you can prep them well in advance. They keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Ingredients

  • 3 Plant-Based Italian Sausages*
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • bunches broccoli rabe
  • 8 ounces dry orecchiette pasta
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 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
  • cup pine nuts

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

*We like the Lightlife brand.
**Omit if vegan.

10 comments

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  1. Janet
    12.11.2020

    This looks great! I have a similar sausage and orecchiette recipe, but this one looks better. I love the addition of all the veggies!

  2. Liz
    12.12.2020

    This looks really tasty! I’ll have to give it a try.

    Just an aside…your note says to omit the Parmesan if you’re vegan, but it’s actually not vegetarian friendly either.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.12.2020

      Thanks for pointing that out – certain brands are but I should note that.

  3. mary from thewellfedyogi.com
    12.12.2020

    Oh so delicious. I love orecchiette and of course, the veggies just make it!

  4. Joshua Best
    12.13.2020

    5 stars
    Wife and I made this tonight — DIVINE!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.14.2020

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  5. Kelsey
    12.14.2020

    What is a substitute for white wine in this recipe?

  6. Melissa
    03.01.2021

    Any suggestions for protein that does not use meat substitutes? Husband will. not. eat. those. Beans maybe?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.01.2021

      Hi Melissa, white beans or chickpeas would be great!

  7. Julliane
    03.16.2021

    YUM. Even better as leftovers. I made a few alterations – some by choice, others by force. I did not have orecchiette or broccoli rabe, and they didn’t carry them at our grocery store. SO, I used a different noodle type (not sure what kind but it was short and open), and I used a handful of broccoli and 5 or so leafy kale stalks. For fun, I added cayenne, extra red pepper flakes, extra garlic gloves, chicken sausage, and asparagus (chopped). Wow, yum. Disappointed I did not have broccoli rabe, but I was so pleased w/ this dish. Carmelized my own onions too using Love and Lemons’ recipe, and wow…just big round of applause. Thank you.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.