Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta

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This vibrant Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta is deeply savory and ultra satisfying without feeling heavy. This pasta dinner is made without heavy cream and minimal amounts of butter. Instead, the sauce is created mainly with chicken broth and olive oil. We’ve loaded in plenty of broccoli and finish the dish with a good dose of Parmesan cheese — the whole family is going to love this one!

How do you pronounce Orecchiette in Italian?

“oh-reck-ee-ET-tay” (Here’s a video to hear the proper Orecchiette pronunciation)

Overhead image of Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta

Orecchiette with Sausage

Sausage and pasta are a match made in heaven — I’ll take the two together whenever I have the option!

Usually when we combine sausage and pasta, it’s in a decadent and heavy cream sauce. Delicious? Absolutely! But certainly more of an indulgent dinner. (Hello, my fave comfort meals: Sausage RigatoniCreamy Sausage Pasta, and Summer Pasta!)

This dish is a lighter, weeknight meal type of option–for when you’re craving comfort food, but a little bit less. There is no cream or milk in this dish; instead the saucy base is made up of browned bits from the sausage (loads of flavor here), chicken broth, olive oil, and a touch of butter for good measure. This dish feels refreshingly light, especially if you add a squeeze of lemon! Truly, it makes the best sauce for orecchiette pasta — it clings perfectly to every nook and cranny!

QUICK TIP

Looking for other Orecchiette recipes? We use this pasta shape in this Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad which is a reader favorite!

Process shots-- images of the sausage being cooked and the garlic and seasonings being added

Orecchiette Pasta Recipe Ingredients

This dish is fairly minimalist and doesn’t require a whole lot of ingredients. Below is a quick breakdown of a few ingredients worth mentioning:

  • Italian sausage: The better the sausage, the better this dish tastes! Look for sausages where you can see marbling of fat as opposed to sausages that are a uniform color.
    • Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works and both are delicious. Make sure to remove the casings before cooking
    • Make sure you’re using Italian sausage, not breakfast sausages. The spice blend is quite different!
    • For more heat (and flavor) use spicy sausage. If you’re sensitive to spice, use a mild or sweet sausage instead. If some of your guests want more spice and others don’t, serve red pepper flakes on the side!
  • Parmesan cheese: For the perfect melt and to ensure the measurement is accurate (so the dish isn’t too salty), use a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of your cheese grater. Measure and add!
  • Broccoli: Frozen broccoli tends to get a bit mushy and doesn’t taste the best in this dish. Save frozen for broccoli soup and use fresh here!

Process shots of the Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta-- image of the cooked orecchiette

VARIATIONS

How To Make This Orecchiette Pasta Dish Your Own!

  • Orecchiette with broccoli rabe: For a fancier feel, replace the regular broccoli with broccoli rabe. (Fun fact: did you know the two aren’t actually related?! Broccoli is in the cabbage family and broccoli rabe is related to turnips.) Broccoli rabe has longer and thinner stalks than regular broccoli. It’s very common in Italian cuisine and is typically sautéed with olive oil (eaten raw it can be quite bitter).
  • Orecchiette with sausage and spinach: If you’d like to add some extra greens, add 3 cups coarsely chopped baby spinach when you stir in the cooked pasta. As you toss the pasta in the sauce, the spinach will quickly wilt down.
  • Vegetarian orecchiette pasta: If you want to prepare this dish without sausage, it will be lacking quite a bit of flavor (and saltiness).  Sausage is a key flavor element, so I’d recommend making this Broccoli Pasta instead and swapping out pasta types. You’ll also want to replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Process shots-- images of the broccoli, butter, pasta, and cheese being added to the pot

Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta FAQs

1What is orecchiette?

Orecchiette is a pasta shape typical of Apulia, a region of Southern Italy. The name orecchiette means ‘little ears’ and that’s just what it looks like! One side of the pasta has a rough surface that is ideal for clinging onto sauces.

2What is orecchiette pasta made of?

Just like other pastas, orecchiette is made from semolina, water, and salt.

3What pasta can be substituted for orecchiette?

Try to find a similar sized pasta and one with ridges or roughness to catch the sauce. Medium shells, fusili, farfalle, or penne would all work well in this dish.

Up-close overhead image of Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta ready to be enjoyed

QUICK TIP

Remember to Reserve Pasta Water!

Do you struggle to remember to save some pasta water before draining the pasta? I know I do! Here’s a trick: Place the colander in the sink with a mug or heat-safe measuring cup in the center. When you go to drain the pasta, you’ll see the mug and be reminded to pull out some water first!

More Lighter Pasta Options:

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Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta

5 from 9 votes
This vibrant Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta is deeply savory and ultra satisfying without being heavy. This pasta dinner is made without heavy cream and minimal amounts of butter. Instead, the sauce is created mainly with chicken broth and olive oil. We've loaded in plenty of broccoli and finish the dish with a good dose of Parmesan cheese -- the whole family is going to love this one!
This recipe has slightly changed -- it used to be a one pot dish with a special type of pasta that cooked quickly ("pronto" noodles). The company no longer makes the pasta, so I updated the recipe with regular pasta instead. If you still would like to reference the old recipe, here it is.
Print Recipe

Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta

5 from 9 votes
This vibrant Orecchiette, Sausage, and Broccoli Pasta is deeply savory and ultra satisfying without being heavy. This pasta dinner is made without heavy cream and minimal amounts of butter. Instead, the sauce is created mainly with chicken broth and olive oil. We've loaded in plenty of broccoli and finish the dish with a good dose of Parmesan cheese -- the whole family is going to love this one!
This recipe has slightly changed -- it used to be a one pot dish with a special type of pasta that cooked quickly ("pronto" noodles). The company no longer makes the pasta, so I updated the recipe with regular pasta instead. If you still would like to reference the old recipe, here it is.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Italian
Keyword Orecchiette, Orecchiette pasta, Orecchiette recipes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 959kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $8.45

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg. (16 oz.) orecchiette pasta (Note 1)
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, separated
  • 1 pkg. (19 oz.) ) Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, removed from casings (Note 2)
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 2 teaspoons each: minced garlic, Italian seasoning, dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping (Note 3)
  • Optional: lemon, fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  • SAUSAGE: Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large heavy bottom skillet (big enough to hold all the cooked pasta later). Heat to medium-high heat and add in the sausage (casings removed) plus salt & pepper to taste (I add 1/2 tsp of each). Cook and crumble with a wooden spoon until browned, but not cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add 2 tsp each: garlic, Italian seasoning, dried parsley. Add 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Stir through until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.
  • PASTA: Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water (I add 2 tsp salt) and then cook the pasta according to package instructions for the minimum time indicated. Use a glass mug to remove a big scoop of pasta water (set aside for now) and then drain the pasta and set aside. Don't rinse pasta under cool water.
  • BROCCOLI: To the sausage skillet, add the remaining 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup chicken broth, and 4 cups broccoli. Cook, stirring frequently, and scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add in 3 tbsp butter and stir until melted. Simmer sauce until slightly reduced and thickened.
  • TOSS TOGETHER: Pour drained pasta on top of the sausage and broccoli mixture; toss well. Gradually add in the cheese (2 tbsp at a time so it doesn't clump) as you toss, until pasta is nicely emulsified (Note 4). Add reserved pasta water if needed (to thin sauce). If desired, add in a squeeze of lemon. Taste and adjust seasonings to personal preference.
  • SERVE: Divide among bowls, adding fresh parsley and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy promptly!
  • STORAGE: As with most pasta dishes, this recipe is best enjoyed the minute everything is tossed together. When reheating, you'll likely need to add a splash more chicken broth to thin the sauce again. This dish doesn't freeze/thaw particularly well.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Pasta: If you can't find this particular shape, use medium shells, fusili, farfalle, or penne.
Note 2: Italian sausage: The better the sausage, the better this dish tastes! Make sure to remove the casings before cooking. Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works and both are delicious. For more heat (and flavor) use spicy sausage. If you’re sensitive to spice, use a mild or sweet sausage instead. If some of your guests want more spice and others don’t, serve red pepper flakes on the side!
Note 3: Parmesan cheese: Use a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively, use finely grated Parmesan cheese. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won't melt into the sauce nicely. 
Note 4: Emulsify: Emulsifying means combining all the ingredients so they are suspended in the mixture. If a mixture settles and separates, that’s the opposite of an emulsion. Toss until you get the sauce clinging to the pasta instead of falling to the bottom of the pan (and splash in the reserved pasta water if needed to smooth/thin sauce ensuring it coats every bit of the dish.).

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 959kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 73g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 35g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 1437mg | Potassium: 705mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 965IU | Vitamin C: 84mg | Calcium: 228mg | Iron: 4mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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20 Comments

  1. This sounds delicious and so easy! I love the combination of sausage and broccoli… tasty and filling without being too heavy. One-pot meals are perfect for busy weeknights so I’m definitely saving this one!

  2. 5 stars
    Wow, this is an awesome, really high protein dish! I made it with broccolini and it was equally good. Thank you.

  3. 5 stars
    extremely tasty and simple recipe. First pasta I ever made. Loved how all the ingredients go with each other and the flavor comes out to be amazing.

  4. 5 stars
    Sooo good! Tons of flavor. I couldn’t find the Pronto noodles in my grocery store so I just used regular tricolor rotini and added an extra cup of chicken stock. Turned out perfect!

  5. 5 stars
    Great recipe! Very filling and flavorful. My husband and teenage boys raved about the meal. Definitely a keeper! Thank you for the delicious recipe.

        1. Yes! There is a note in the recipe card, it says:

          This recipe has slightly changed — it used to be a one pot dish with a special type of pasta that cooked quickly (“pronto” noodles). The company no longer makes the pasta, so I updated the recipe with regular pasta instead. If you still would like to reference the old recipe, here it is: https://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Screen-Shot-2022-09-29-at-6.33.32-PM.png

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