Tonight we whipped together a relatively quick meal inspired by David Tanis’ marvelous cookbook A Platter of Figs, which I’ve raved about previously. In his “winter” menu, he bakes orecchiette with broccoli rabe (rapini) and homemade fennel sausage, and below is our spin. We’ve followed a number of his methods, with the largest differences being that he makes his fennel sausage (without casings) in a separate process, and we also added a touch of chicken broth to keep the dish from being too dry (which we felt it was on first attempt).
6 or 8 servings
1 lb dried campanelle pasta
1 lb brocolli rabe, washed
1 lb ground pork
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (hot), plus a pinch
1 tsp salt, plus a pinch
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1/4 lb ricotta
1/3 cup chicken broth
Boil the pasta until very al dente in salted water, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a large baking sheet to cool, drizzling some olive oil on top. Bring the water back to a boil and blanch the broccoli rabe for a minute, then drain in a collander and let cool.
Pre-heat oven to 400F
With a mortar and pestle, crush the fennel seeds and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. In a large saute pan, warm a little olive oil on medium heat, then begin to brown the ground pork, using your spatula to break it into smaller pieces. Stir in the fennel and red pepper flakes from the mortar, and add half the minced garlic and a tsp of salt. Stir together well and when the pork is browned, remove from the pan, drain any excess fat, and set aside.
Roughly chop the broccoli rabe. Then, add a little more olive oil to the saute pan, set it over medium heat, and add the remainder of the minced garlic. Fairly quickly, because you do not want to brown the garlic, add the chopped broccoli rabe, the rosemary, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir everything together and turn off the heat.
Combine the pasta, sausage, and broccoli rabe, and chicken broth in a large bowl and gently stir together. Add the ricotta, in small pieces, and stir that in. (Note: we used store bought ricotta, but we really want to make our own)
Butter a baking dish, and fill it with the pasta. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may need to use two. Sprinkle a little pecorino cheese on top. At this point it will look like the below picture:
Cover the baking dish and place in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for 5 more minutes. Serve with some additional pecorino cheese grated on top or on the side.