What's beany, greeny and steamy all over? This Orecchiette with Sausage, Beans and Greens, that's what! I love the classic combination of beans and greens, specifically cannellini beans and bitter escarole. You find this duo often in Italian cooking, typically served as a simple combo of the two ingredients, but I've made this more of a "full package" recipe by adding sausage and orecchiette pasta to the mix. This is a hearty, stew-like pasta dish- the perfect thing to warm you up on a chilly winter's eve! You can make it as spicy as you like by adding more or less red pepper flakes and using mild or hot Italian sausage. I prefer this on the spicy side but feel free to keep it mild, especially if serving kids!
If you can't find escarole, a bitter green that looks like a leafy head of lettuce, you could sub in kale or spinach. I blanche it briefly with the orecchiette at the end of cooking then strain it with the pasta and add to the sauce. That's when the real magic happens! Reserve a little pasta water and add it little by little while simmering and stirring to thicken and emulsify the hearty sauce. The pasta water will also season the final dish (because you liberally salted it, right?)! Once it's done, the pasta will be glossy and rich, especially so with the help of a little butter stirred in off the heat. Because the pasta finishes cooking over low heat in the sauce, strain it once it's just shy of al dente to avoid overcooking. Enjoy!
prep time: 10 min. cook time: 20 min. serves: 4
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 plump cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch red chili flakes, to taste
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 lb hot or mild raw Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 cups whole peeled tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed by hand
1-1/2 cups drained and rinsed cannellini beans
12 oz orrechiette pasta
1 large bunch escarole, chopped and rinsed
1 tbsp honey butter
1 cup grated Parmigiano reggiano, divided
Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil in the bottom of a large, deep pot. Throw in the garlic and bring the heat to medium. As soon as the garlic begins to cook, add the chili flakes and thyme and stir almost constantly 1 minute. Add the sausage and use a wooden spoon to break it up- cook until no pink remains, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn. Pour in the white wine and let it reduce slightly, then add the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup water and half of the beans. Season with 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook 1 min less than al dente according to package instructions, about 8-9 min. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water closer to the end of cooking. Add the escarole to the pasta with 1 minute left of cooking and stir to wilt down. Drain the pasta and escarole in a colander.
Add the remaining beans to the sauce, then add the strained pasta and greens on top and pour over 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup parmesan. Toss to mix, cooking gently and stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes. Add more pasta water as needed little by little until the sauce is glossy and luxurious. Off the heat, stir in the butter to melt into the sauce. Ladle the hot pasta into shallow bowls and serve with remaining parmesan cheese on top.