Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Clams and Sweet Italian Sausage

Sunday night is usually a good night in One Woman’s Kitchen.  I usually have the time and the inclination to do something nice for dinner.  This is an especially good night.  Seriously, this dish is so good I can hardly stop swooning long enough to tell you about it.  It’s from Tyler Florence’s show Tyler’s Ultimate.  Ultimate indeed.  Briny, buttery, slightly bitter, pleasantly hot – so, so good.  And not very expensive.  It’s works out to about $7 per serving for a dish that in a restaurant would likely cost you nearly three times that.

It’s a pretty simple recipe:  two pots and four major ingredients.   Of course since there are so few ingredients the quality really counts.  Don’t try to substitute clams out of a can.  The clams steam in wine and that’s what makes the yummy sauce.  So, as always, use a wine you’d drink.  Technically any pasta will do.  Orecchiette is a good choice because they’re shaped like little bowls, perfect for holding the sauce.  It’s a thin sauce so something like rotini or farfalle won’t really do it.  You could try campanelle if that’s easier to find.  That brings us to the sausage.  Faith Farm makes the best italian sausage I’ve ever eaten.  And it’s terrific in this.  Finally, broccoli rabe is a new ingredient for me.  It’s a bitter green.  Cooking it in the pasta water takes most of the bitterness out.  Put it all together and  YUM!

A couple of things I noticed that might make this just a touch easier for you.  The recipe calls for you to make the sausage into little balls.  I think you’ll be better off to flatten the balls just a little.  That will make them easier to turn for browning and make the cooking a little faster.  The way the recipe reads to me, you just brown the sausage.  Not so, you need to cook it all the way through, not to death, just done.  It doesn’t cook again later.  I’ve made a revision below to reflect that.  Also, I don’t think you’ll need to add any salt other than the salt in the pasta water.  The brininess of the sauce combined with the saltiness of the parmesan cheese will be more than enough.  The other thing is the serving.  The recipe recommends that you put the pasta, sausage and greens in a large bowl and pour the clams and sauce over it.  This is a fantastic presentation, beautiful and impressive, if you have a bowl that large.  I made just half of the original recipe and it was still too much for my largest pasta bowl.  You may want to remove the clams from their shells and throw the shells away.  It just takes up less room.  You might just want to dish it up into individual bowls.  It will stay hot a little better that way.

A note about cooking with fresh clams.  Buy them the day you use them.  They won’t keep. Also, be sure that the clams open during steaming.  If you take the top off of the pot and one or two of the clams are still closed throw the closed ones away.  This happens from time to time so you might want to get a few extras just in case.

Serve this with crusty bread for soaking up any sauce left in the bottom of the bowl.  Pouring it down the sink would be criminal.

Good? Unbelievably good.
Easy? Yes, absolutely.
Good for company? Yes, absolutely.
Special shopping? Fresh clams.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Clams and Sweet Italian Sausage

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pounds loose sweet Italian sausage, shaped into mini-meatballs
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, or to taste
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 18 littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
  • 1 cups dry white wine
  • 8 oz orecchiette
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small bunches broccoli rabe, stems removed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garmish
  • Directions

    1. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

    2. Take another large saucepan (big enough to hold clams) and set over medium heat. Add a 2-count of olive oil and loose pork sausage. Cook over medium heat to render fat and get color on the sausage. Once the sausage is browned on all sides, and cooked until just done, remove and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. To the same pan, add the chopped garlic, red chili flakes and thyme leaves and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn up the heat, dump in the cleaned and scrubbed clams and white wine. Cover with a lid and steam for about 10 minutes until the clams open.

    3. While clams are steaming, cook the pasta. Add orecchiette to boiling water and cook. With about 3 minutes left, add the broccoli rabe to the same pot and cook until tender. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe. Return pasta and broccoli rabe to the pasta pot with the browned sausage. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, season with pepper, to taste, and stir to combine.

    4. Now return to the clams. Remove the lid and add the cubes of cold butter and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil as you stir. Once the sauce thickens slightly transfer the pasta and sausage mixture to a large serving bowl then take the whole pan and pour on top of the orecchiette and broccoli rabe. Shower with fresh Parmesan and parsley.

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