Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

It’s a tradition in our home to have a send off meal before our kids go to overnight camp in the summer. Overnight camp is tons of fun, but it generally not known for the amazing cuisine. So, generally the night before they leave it’s kids choice. This year my kids are doing different camps. My son is going back to his traditional sleepover camp later in July, but this year my daughter decided to try something different and go on a “teen tour” type camp where she is exploring the west of our country. She is starting in Arizona, then Utah..into Nevada and ending up in California. Unlike food produced in a cafeteria setting of camp, she will experience familiar foods and be able to generally be able to eat what she likes. I still gave her the option of what she wanted to eat before her send off and she picked one of her favorites, orecchiette with turkey sausage and broccoli rabe.

Sort of a weird choice for a teen, but it’s one of my favorites as well so I was happy to oblige. The traditional method of this classic dish comes from regular pork sausage and lots of olive oil, but I lightened it up quite a bit and you don’t miss the flavor.

Start off by boiling a pound of orecchiette al dente. I even knock a minute of that coking time as well since you will be adding the pasta to the other ingredients and cooking it together. Before draining the pasta, reserve a cup or so of the starchy water that the pasta cooked in. You will need it when combining all the ingredients later.

In a heavy bottom pot, or dutch oven, brown the turkey sausage in a couple teaspoons of olive oil. You can sometimes find ground turkey sausage, but I will buy links and take the meat out of the casings and break it up in the pot until it’s browned. I also add a few shakes of red pepper flakes to the already spicy sausage.

Once its brown, add the garlic and stir it a bit until you smell the garlic. You don’t want to burn it. Add the cleaned chopped broccoli rabe to the pot and pour over the chicken stock. Put the lid on the pot and allow the broccoli rabe to wilt down and cook. About 5-7 minutes.

Take off the lid and give everything a good stir. Add the pasta and the cheese. Add in the reserved pasta water, a little at a time until everything comes together. I use about a cup of the water.

Serve with an additional sprinkling of cheese.


  • 1 lb. orecchiette, or shells
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp.  extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 oz sweet or hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped roughly
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • parmesan cheese, shaved
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook according the the package directions, but 1 or 2 minutes less for al dente. Before you drain the orecchiette, scoop out 1 – 1 1/2 cups of pasta water and set it aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Once the oil is shimmery, add the sausage, breaking it up as you cook it. When you’re done the sausage will be golden to deep brown, in bite sized pieces, and fully cooked through. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the broccoli rabe along with 1 cup of chicken stock to the pot Cover the pot and let it steam for about 5 minutes. Then uncover the pot, and stir everything together.
  • Keep the pot on medium high and add the pasta. Pour in about 1 cup of the pasta water and cook everything until the sauce is thickened, 1-2 minutes. Add in the cheese and additional red pepper flakes if you like it extra spicy. Serve with shavings of parmesan over the top.