This dinner recipe, which comes from Giada’s Everyday Italian, was all about trying new things. For the longest time, I always ate pasta with tomato sauce. It’s only recently that I’ve come to discover the joy of pasta combined with other flavors and ingredients besides tomatoes. This recipe primarily caught my eye today as I looked for a dinner idea because I knew I had sausage in the fridge. When I saw broccoli rabe on the list of ingredients I thought I’d just substitute broccoli instead. You see, broccoli is known and therefore, safe, while on the other hand, I’ve only ever seen broccoli rabe on tv. I’m always a bit hesitant to try new veggies, especially when I’m counting on them to be a major part of my meal. In a rare brave moment, though, I picked up a bunch of broccolini (which I mistakenly thought was broccoli rabe) at the store today figuring I’d give it a shot in the recipe. I didn’t realize my error until I got home so broccoli rabe remains on the “to try” list.

This dinner came together quickly so it’s perfect for a weeknight. In a funny twist, Shane and I both enjoyed the meal, but for different reasons. I’m not a huge sausage fan, but I loved the broccolini and penne with the garlicy oil and hint of heat from the red pepper flakes. I found the broccolini more tender and sweeter than broccoli and I would say I actually prefer it to broccoli for those reasons. Shane kept as far away from the broccolini as he could but he gobbled up the pasta and the sausage and even went back for more. I’m thrilled to have another pasta dish to throw into our dinner rotation!

Penne with Spicy Sausage and Broccolini
adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis

salt
2 bunches broccolini
12 ounces penne pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spicy pork sausage, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the broccolini in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Remove the broccolini from the pot (reserve all of the cooking liquid) and immerse in a bowl of ice water. Bring the reserved cooking liquid back to a boil and cook the penne in that water until tender but still firm to the bite (about 10 minutes for my pasta but check your package for cooking time). Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with spoon, until browned and juices form, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccolini and toss to coat. Add the penne and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, salt (to taste) and pepper.

Serves 4