Orecchiette With Sweet Sausage And Escarole

So much flavor! This recipe from Food and Wine magazine takes some time and dedication in the kitchen, but the pay-off is huge. The only bit of advice I’ll offer is to make sure you rinse the escarole completely. Cut the ends off the heads and rinse.  After chopping into pieces, put in a bowl and rinse. You’ll find a lot of sand left behind in the water, and this is what you don’t want in your dinner. Outside of that….the layers of deliciousness are plenty. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 fennel bulb, minced

2 large yellow onions, finely chopped (4 cups)

4 garlic cloves – 2 smashed and 2 minced

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 cups dry red wine

One 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 heads of escarole (2 Lbs.) coarsely chopped (rinse, rinse, rinse)

1 cup dry white wine

crushed red pepper

1 Lb. dried orecchiette

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the sausage and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until browned, 5 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the fennel, half of the onions and the smashed garlic to the casserole and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are golden and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the red wine, tomatoes and 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Return the sausage to the pot and cook over low heat until the sauce is thickened. 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Add the remaining chopped onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped escarole in batches, stirring until each batch is wilted before adding more. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and the minced garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and a pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the escarole is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir the escarole mixture into the sausage ragu.
  3. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and add the reserved water, 5 cups of ragu, the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and the 1 cup of grated cheese. Season with salt and black pepper and crushed red pepper and toss to coat. Serve with additional cheese. Reserve the remaining ragu for later use.
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