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Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta is a beautifully balanced dish despite its fiesty flavor components. Starchy pasta mellows a medley of savory pork sausage, pleasantly bitter broccoli rabe (rapini), spicy red pepper flakes, and nutty parmesan cheese.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta served in a white ceramic bowl

I say “pleasantly bitter” because broccoli rabe has a reputation for being bitter. It’s true. Fortunately boiling it in water for just one minute is an effective remedy.

Tips for Best Results

You’ll already be boiling water for pasta and it’s easy and economical to use the same water for blanching the broccoli rabe. It’s important to the overall flavor of the dish and partially cooks the broccoli rabe as a bonus (and seasons it too if you salt your water).

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta is a classic Italian pasta dish that’s often made with orecchiette pasta (meaning “little ears” in Italian). But I’ve found that any short pasta stands in nicely. And most are less likely to stick together, as orecchiette likes to do.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta served in a white bowl photographed from above

Make sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking water to create a silky texture in your finished dish and for storing any leftovers. A splash of cooking water in the bottom of your container makes it easy to reheat this dish without the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. (I like to add a splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper as well.)

Ingredients You Need to Make Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta ingredients flat lay
  • Broccoli Rabe (rapini): Look for fresh looking bunches with perky greens and buds. Avoid those that are discolored or wilted.
  • Sausage:  This recipe calls for Italian sausage. Sweet Italian sausage is what I typically use, controlling the heat with the red pepper flakes. Use hot Italian sausage if you want extra kick. I used pork sausage, but for a lighter version, feel free to use turkey sausage instead.
  • Fresh Garlic: Look for smooth, dry skins and plump bulbs. Avoid those that have shriveled cloves or are starting to sprout.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Or crushed red pepper (same thing).
  • Olive Oil: Use a good, flavorful olive oil. Because you’re cooking with it, it doesn’t necessarily need to be extra virgin olive oil (though it’s typically all I have on hand).
  • Pasta: Most short pasta shapes work well here. I used strozzapreti, but rotini, fusilli, and penne are also good choices.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Ideally Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano. You could also use pecorino cheese if you prefer.

FAQ

Where can I find broccoli rabe?

You can find broccoli rabe, also called ‘rapini,’ in most major grocery stores and often at farmers markets.

What can you substitute for broccoli rabe?

If you can’t find broccoli rabe, substitute another bitter green like mustard greens, turnip greens, or curly kale. If you dislike the bitterness of broccoli rabe, broccolini is a good substitute.

More must try Italian pasta recipes

How to Make Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta

Step 1: Coarsely chop and blanch broccoli rabe for 1 minute. Transfer rapini to colander and return water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions; drain and reserve 1 cup of cooking water.

blanched broccoli rabe and reserved pasta water

Step 2: Meanwhile brown sausage in oil, breaking up with a spoon. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute more. Add broccoli rabe and pasta; toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper; serve topped with parmesan cheese.

broccoli rabe and sausage pasta ready to serve

Recipe Video

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta

5 from 13 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 553
Servings: 6 people
A classic Italian pasta recipe that's easy to make with any short pasta you have on hand.

Ingredients  

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe (rapini)
  • 12 ounces short pasta like strozzapreti, rotini, fusilli, or rigatoni
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage sweet or spicy
  • 4 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan cheese

Instructions 

  • Wash rapini (see recipe note); drain and coarsely chop.
  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil. Add rapini and cook 1 minute (working in batches if necessary); transfer rapini to colander to drain. Return water to boil.
  • Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente (tender, but firm to the bite). Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking up with a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant and golden, about 1 minute more. Add broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add pasta and stir to combine, adding reserved cooking liquid a few tablespoons at a time as needed to moisten. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 pasta bowls; sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Notes

  1. To wash rapini, submerge in a large bowl of water. Swoosh it around to dislodge all dirt and debris. Lift out rapini and transfer to a colander to drain.

Nutrition

Calories: 553kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 655mg | Potassium: 480mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 2048IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 163mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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30 Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday. Easy to follow recipe tastes amazing

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      So glad you enjoyed this, Kathy!

  2. greg says:

    5 stars
    This was amazing!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it, Greg!

  3. Diana says:

    5 stars
    I had a random bunch of broccoli rabe in my refrigerator and decided to use this recipe to get rid of it. OMG! It was absolutely divine! I followed your recipe exactly, except that I added a small chopped onion. My husband says this is company worthy. That is pretty much the ultimate compliment at our house – thank you for the recipe!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      aww, I love to hear this, Diana! I’m so glad that you and your husband enjoyed this!

  4. Lisa says:

    5 stars
    Delicious!!! Followed the directions and it came out perfect! So easy to put together! Will definitely be making this again. Thank you!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Lisa!

  5. Tim says:

    5 stars
    I made this tonight…. EXCELLENT ..thank you. I have made RB, sausage and pasta before and winged it, it was never that great… this recipe is a def keeper. thank you

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Tim! Thank you for coming back to let me know!