Pasta with Rapini-Broccoli Rabe and Sausage alla Rizzuti

By Maria Rizzuti

There are three things my family really loves to eat, Italian sausages, rapini- broccoli rabe and pasta.  These three things make for a very flavourful combination of spicy and savory. Today’s recipe incorporates all three of these ingredients and the star ingredient today is the rapini.  Rapini is also known in non Italian circles as broccoli rabe. Contrary to popular belief, rapini is not related to the broccoli family of vegetables. The broccoli part of the name comes from the broccoli like appearance of this Italian vegetable. Rapini is related to both the cabbage and turnip family. The flavour of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, pungent, and by non Italians as “an acquired taste.” Italian children are used to the rapini flavour, as they are told by there mothers to, “Mangi il vostro rapini!” or “Eat your rapini!” as opposed to the more popular mother directive of “Eat your broccoli!”  Rapini descends from a wild herb, a relative of the turnip, that grew either inChinaor the Mediterranean region. Italians have enjoyed rapini for many hundreds of years and introduced it toAmericawhen they brought it over with them.

Rapini has developed in popularity so that it is now grown throughout the world. Rapini is available all year long.    The peak rapini season is fall to spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  Rapini -broccoli rabe has plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Potassium, folic acid, and fiber and it’s tasty and obviously good for you!  Interestingly enough, according to “Rabbit Forum” on the internet, rabbits also like to eat rapini. Its no wonder why rabbits like rapini because rabbits’ usual menu of carrots has the same  top four nutrients as does the rapini. Perhaps we should emmulate Buggsy’s eating habits as he  knows something we do not.  Your rabbit does not have to be Italian to eat rapini. However, if you feed your bunny rapini, it may end up speaking Italian!  Rapini tends to be more popular in Europe than North America, however it is gaining more popularity as it becomes a new “trendy” vegetable to cook. Rapini is commonly used in traditional Barese and southern Italian cuisine which explains why this is a Calabrese favourite dish given my family background.  The other main ingredient is Italian sausage. Italian sausage is mainly made out of pork. Traditional seasoning for the sausage meat is fennel or anise. The sausages then can be formed into sweet or hot style. I personally like my sausage to be hot, hot, hot!  These two main ingredients combined with the pasta makes for a hearty and tasty dish!

Pasta with Rapini- Broccoli Rabe and Sausage alla Rizzuti

Servings 4 to 6


1 poundof orecchiette pasta or penne rigate
1 large bundle rapini, about 1 ½ pounds
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 large cloves of garlic-cut in large slivers
½ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Italian hot or sweet sausage (remove from casings)


Cook the orecchiette pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.

In the meantime, trim ends of the rapini, wash thoroughly and cut into 3-inch pieces.

In a deep large skillet add water and bring to a rolling boil. Salt the water and then add the rapini.  Cook about ten minutes until tender or al dente, drain and set aside.

Return the same skillet to the stove and add the olive oil, silvered garlic and chili flakes (optional) and sauté garlic at medium-high heat. When garlic is golden brown and aromatic, remove and add the sausage.  Cook the sausage and break up with spoon until browned for about 8 minutes. If too much fat has rendered from the sausage you can discard some. Then add the rapini, pasta, and the ½ cup of the pasta water and season with the salt and black pepper to taste.  Toss and stir to combine the flavours and until most of the water has evaporated.


Buon appetito and a very Happy New Year!