Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage


This sauce, and its loads of variations, is probably the one I make most often.
TIME 40 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
Salt
1 pound broccoli
¼ cup olive oil, or more as needed
1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more to taste
½ pound Italian sausages (2 to 3 sausages), chopped
1 pound cut pasta like orecchiette, penne, ziti, or farfalle
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Method
1 Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Trim the broccoli and cut it into pieces. Add the broccoli to the pot and return the water to a boil.

2 Meanwhile, put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and the sausage is well browned, about 5 minutes. Remove it from the skillet and turn the heat off.

3 Start checking the broccoli after 5 minutes. You want it fully tender but not mushy; this could take up to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or small strainer to scoop up the broccoli, draining off excess water, and transfer it to the skillet. (Keep the water boiling.)

4 Cook the broccoli over medium-high heat, stirring and mashing it slightly with a potato masher, until it is quite soft and breaks apart. If you need to, add a tablespoon or two of the boiling water to help soften the broccoli. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes.

5 When the pasta is done, scoop out and reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain it. Add the pasta, sausage, and a splash of cooking water to the broccoli; toss until combined, adding a little more water or olive oil if necessary to make a slightly creamy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding lots of black pepper and the Parmesan cheese. Toss again and serve, passing more cheese at the table.

Variations
  • Pasta with Broccoli Skip the sausage and go directly from Step 1 to Step 3.
  • 5 Pastas with Vegetables, with or without Sausage. Use this same recipe with these vegetables instead of the broccoli; you’ll need to vary the boiling time:

1 Kale, collards, or cabbage will take 5 to 10 minutes.
2 Cauliflower (which is fantastic) will take 10 to 12 minutes.
3 Broccoli raab and asparagus will take 3 to 5 minutes.
4 Chopped escarole, spinach, or arugula will take about 1 minute.
5 Mushrooms require no boiling—just trim and slice them, then cook them with the garlic and browned sausage until they shrink and their liquid evaporates, 5 to 10 minutes.

Tips
  • The olive oil in this dish adds body and flavor to the sauce, so don’t skimp. In fact, I add another tablespoon or two when tossing the pasta for richness, moisture, and flavor.

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