Day 333: Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe ♥

Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Raab, another easy weeknight supper ♥ A Veggie Venture, now updated to be Weight Watchers Friendly.
graphic button small size size 10 Maybe this is tonight's supper? It's simple pasta supper, made with pantry ingredients plus some broccoli rabe (what that? see its different names, below) that shows up in well-stocked grocery stores in late winter. I've updated this 2006 recipe to make it very Weight Watchers Friendly with High Protein. graphic button small size size 10

A quick announcement, Veggie Lovers! March is "broccoli rabe month" here at A Veggie Venture, or as contributor StephenCooks calls it, a Broccoli Rabe Festival. Whether you call this wonderful leafy green "broccoli rabe" or "broccoli raab"or "rapini", do join in! There's a running round-up of recipe ideas – that's here at Broccoli Rabe Recipe Roundup. All month long, your contributions, new and archived and just plain recipes, are most welcome!

At Simply Recipes, Elise and her folks call Shell Pasta with Sausage & Greens a "keeper". I tweaked Elise's recipe but trust me too, sausage and broccoli rabe are a brilliant combination. This recipe IS a definite keeper! You do have to be careful with calories though, I've got lots of tips and ideas built into my version of the recipe. But first, people, do you know about broccoli rabe? What a find!

IS BROCCOLI RABE THE NEW SPINACH? I'm a fiend for greens and typically buy two or three big bags of spinach a week. But lately I haven't been happy with supermarket spinach. It's tougher. It's more stem than leaf. It seems tough not tender. And it's WAY more expensive than even a year ago.

But since I've been buying broccoli rabe, here's what I've found. Broccoli rabe is fresher. It's easier to wash and trim. And it's WAY cheaper, $1.70 a pound vs $5.50 for an equivalent amount of spinach. The only downside is that broccoli rabe does need to be used within a day or two, where the spinach can last for up to a week. Is broccoli rabe the new spinach? At my house, definitely! (Thanks again to Debbie, the new produce manager at my local Schnucks store, for ordering it!)

I've collected a bunch of my own recipes for broccoli rabe. You just knew I'd be organized about it, right? :-)


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Makes 6 cups

This recipe is easy to make but does take a little pot-juggling and time management. Start the pasta first, then cook the sausage and vegetables (including the broccoli rabe stems) in the skillet. Once they're mostly done, the pasta should already be cooked and drained; use the same pot to flash-cook the broccoli rabe greens. Trust me, it's harder to explain than to cook!

First pot of well-salted water
4 ounces dried pasta
Second pot of fresh well-salted water or chicken stock
1 pound broccoli rabe (or even 2 pounds, it really cooks down), washed well, sturdy stems and tender greens chopped separately and kept separate

1 pound cooked sausage, cut in bite-size chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
Broccoli rabe stems, if using
1 teaspoon fennel seed (don't skip)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (keep tasting, it takes more than you think, you want this to have a hot bite)
Cooked Pasta
Cooked Sausage
Reserved 1/2 cup Pasta Water
2 tablespoons minced garlic (sounds like a lot, but try not to skimp)
1 tablespoon balsamic (or another) vinegar
Flash-Cooked Broccoli Rabe
Salt & pepper to taste

First cook the pasta. Bring the water to a boil. Cook pasta according to instructions. IMPORTANT: Reserve about 1/2 cup hot pasta water. Drain and cover pasta to keep warm.

Now flash-cook the broccoli rabe in the same pot using fresh water, timed to finish just before serving the meal. Just bring the water (or stock) to a boil, about five minutes, before needing the greens, drop the greens (the stems are in the other skillet),

While the pasta cooks, cook the sausage on medium high until lightly browned on all sides, then set aside.

Add olive oil to skillet and heat on medium until shimmery. Stir in broccoli rabe stems, onion, red pepper and fennel seed, cook just until beginning soften but still bright in color.

Stir in Cooked Pasta and Cooked Sausage. In a small bowl, stir together Reserved Pasta Water, garlic and vinegar and stir into skillet. Let cook until everything's hot and slightly syrupy. Stir in the Flash-Cooked Broccoli Rabe. Taste and adjust seasoning.

PASTA Any pasta works taste-wise but shells or oreccheitte or the campanelle I used in 2006 or the penne in 2018 create little pockets for the sausage bits to tuck into: wonderful. The inspiring recipe calls for a pound of pasta, wow, that is a LOT of pasta. At first, I dropped it back to half that (allow 2 ounces per person, which is my usual guideline) but even that was a lot. With the sausage and vegetables and greens, this is already a rich dish, 4 ounces, to my taste is plenty.
SAUSAGE 2018 UPDATE My husband just couldn't understand why, when he was making a last-minute grocery run, I wanted "cooked sausage with a nutrition label" not good housemade sausages from our favorite butcher. For every day, I have good luck with Trader Joe's sausages and Sam's Club sausages and often have a pack or two in the freezer. For special occasions, sure, we go for housemade sausages from the local butcher: but there's no telling what's in them, not "bad" ingredients per se but just way more fat and calories than, for me anyway, is smart.
FENNEL My recipe includes fennel seed: somehow fennel just makes something taste "Italian". Try it, it works!
CHEESE The inspiring recipe called for cheese, but to my taste, the sausage and pasta are already so rich, it just wasn't necessary.
Note to Vegetarians

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I love seeing the differences in this recipe. I would love to add fennel seeds and red peppers to mine next time-thanks for the suggestion:)

  2. I love fennel and I like your idea of adding it to this. Sigh, I'm still trying in vain to get my market to order broccoli rabe. They promised again yesterday, so we'll see.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna