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!


More Favorite Pasta Recipes

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

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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

rate this recipe:
4.75 from 12 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
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.


  • 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


  • 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.


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


4.75 from 12 votes (7 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Donna

    Delicious and easy to make…husband loved it!

  2. Leola

    5 stars
    Wow this was good! I made the vegan version- used pumfu sausage, didn’t use parm cheese (there are so many delicious flavors in this dish I don’t think you need cheese or cheese like sub). I had a combo of red and yellow onion – carmelizing takes a long time but its worth it.
    Unnecessary to pat the cooked broccoli rabe (I consolidated/skipped steps to make it easier).
    I used a local trumpet mushroom pasta (the type of pasta we had that cups ingredients like orecchiette).
    I only had dry sundried tomatoes so I put them in olive oil an hour or so before using. I didn’t have pine nuts so I used walnuts. Fabulous recipe, thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    • Cheri

      I have never used Pumfu, is it good?

  3. Rachel

    5 stars
    Oh! Me again, meant to leave a star review. This should have more than 6 ratings. It’s that good and easy.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it so much!

  4. Rachel

    Amazing recipe. So tasty and delicious. We used pecorino Romano cheese and loved the flavor combination.

  5. Erica

    5 stars
    I first made this with the broccoli rabe and honestly, for me it was too much work without enough payoff. Now I make it with broccoli and it’s great. I’m vegetarian so I skip any sausage but my husband makes some turkey sausage to have with his. Once everything is prepped and the onions ready, this is an easy meal to prepare and it’s delicious.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it!

  6. Helen

    This was so delicious and will quickly jump into our frequent rotation! Do you think it could all be made ahead and heated? I’d rather have it done prior to company coming but want the end result to be just as tasty! Thank you for the wonderful recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Helen, I would prep step 1 and 2 in advance and make the rest of the pasta closer to when you’re ready to serve it. I like the leftovers if I’m just reheating for myself, but I wouldn’t say they’re company-worthy.

  7. En Jay

    2 stars
    I wanted to like this but I found the end result was a bit bland, and didn’t stack up to the amount of time it took to prepare and the expensive ingredients.

  8. Amber

    I’m not sure I’ve seen broccoli rabe in the store, can I use regular broccoli?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Amber, yes, it would be great with regular broccoli too.

  9. Julliane

    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.

  10. Melissa

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Melissa, white beans or chickpeas would be great!

  11. Kelsey

    What is a substitute for white wine in this recipe?

  12. Joshua Best

    5 stars
    Wife and I made this tonight — DIVINE!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  13. mary from thewellfedyogi.com

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

  14. Liz

    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

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

  15. Janet

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

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.