Campanelli with Sausage and Rapini

Why is it that many grocery stores (at least those within a five mile radius of my house) do not stock orecchiette? Or, when it is stocked, I’m not planning a meal around it, so I don’t bother to pick it up. Inevitably, when I do need it, orecchiette is nowhere to be found. Even Gelson’s, which I thought would certainly carry the cute, “little ears,” left me wandering the aisles in disbelief. These stores seem to carry just about every other variety from Ruote to Gemelli (and by every other variety I mean beyond penne and spaghetti). So, I reached for a box of something I thought would work well with the sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) it would mingle with on our plates: campanelli.

In the box, their ends look unfurled the way the petal of a tulip does, its ridges fanning around like a cape. And when they are swimming the salted water, just al dente, they are fully prepared to catch all the juices and flavors this dish provides. Like many pasta recipes, the noodle variety will not significantly affect the final outcome of the dish.  I knew all would be well, but was attached to the orecchiette simply because it was a recipe from Mario Batali’s Los Angeles Restaurant, Osteria Mozza, and I wanted to try it his way the first time. But, all disappointment aside, this was delicious. Because of the textural variety, this would be a great dinner party dish – it’s crunchy, sweet, spicy, and a little unexpected.

Campanelli with Sausage and Rapini

Adapted from Chef Nancy Silverton, Osteria Mozza

1 box campanelli (or other round pasta, like orecchiette)
1 bunch (1 ¼ lb.) broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed and chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. (about 3 links) hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 ½ cup store bought or homemade marinara sauce
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
½ cup toasted Panko breadcrumbs (optional), for garnish

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 9-10 minutes, until al dente. Add broccoli rabe during last three minutes of cooking; drain.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon; cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add cooked pasta and broccoli rabe to skillet, tossing until combined. Stir in marinara sauce; cook 1 minute or until heated through.

Sprinkle with cheeses and panko breadcrumbs before serving.