This is absolutely one of my favorite pasta dishes, and one that is an excellent vehicle for introducing rapini (or broccoli rabe) to your kids. Rapini is a delicious bitter green, that served on its own, is a tough one for kids to love, the flavor being just a little too sharp and funky for your average ankle biter. In this dish, the sweetness of the raisins, and the luxurious mouth-feel afforded by the fat in the sausage, keep the bitterness of the rapini in check, much to the delight of the youngsters. It is a quick meal to toss together, and so easy that it can be prepped top to bottom by anyone old enough to use a knife, just be sure to save the act of slipping the sausage meat from their casings for your least squeamish child. Serve it with a simple green salad and a crust of country bread
- 1 pound Gemelli or other small shell-shaped pasta
- 1 pound (about 4 links) sweet Italian sausage
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, stem bottoms trimmed, washed well
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, reduced in half
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup golden (or dark) raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Fresh ribbons of parmesan cheese, peeled with a vegetable peeler
- Set a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Place low-sodium chicken stock in a pan and reduce by half to 1 cup, add dry white wine and reserve. Lightly toast pine nuts in a dry skillet, reserve.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When shimmering, squeeze sausages from their casings, dropping bite-sized pieces in the hot skillet to saute, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausages to a bowl, leaving behind the drippings in the skillet. Cook the pasta to producers instructions for al dente.
- Trim the ends, wash, dry, and cut the brocolli rabe into 1-1/2” pieces. Add to the drippings in the skillet and saute over medium-high heat until wilted and just starting to take color. Add the sliced garlic and pepper flakes and cook 1-2 minutes, add the reduced chicken broth, wine, and raisins and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the broccoli rabe is just starting to soften, but still has a nice bite to it. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, chuck in a few large knobs of butter and the pine nuts, and toss to combine. Check seasoning for salt and pepper, and serve topped with ribbons of freshly peeled parmesan.