Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

You know what I love the most about cooking?  There is PLENTY of wiggle room for making mistakes thoughtful substitutions!

Well, that and the fact that when I'm done cooking I get to eat my work.  I probably love this more.

Take for instance the time in college when I baked a Funfetti cake for a friend's birthday.  Not having any vegetable oil on hand, I substituted extra virgin olive oil.  Oil is oil, right?  Turns out, no.

Or the time I put my brand new cast iron dutch oven in the dishwasher after one use, and was genuinely surprised by the fact that it oxidized.  (Although in my defense, people, I wasn't a chemistry major.)

Are you noticing a pattern here?  Me too.  Laziness!

These days, I'm a bit more careful and thoughtful in my approach to tackling chores and cooking meals.  I'll take the time to hand wash my good pots and pans, I'll take inventory of what's in the pantry, and I'll at least Google safe baking substitutions so friends' birthdays are actually happy.

Even still, although I may be a perfectionist, I don't usually have time on my side during the week to worry about starting over if I make a mistake or if I can't find an ingredient.  I need to be able to deviate from a recipe without the entire thing unraveling in my pan.

What's so great about cooking during the week is that the possibilities are endless for shaking things up in a short period of time.  Case in point: a classic Italian pasta combination that I adore is Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.  Three ingredients.  So simple.  So delicious.  Leave it alone or else ruin it, right?  Wrong!

Truth be told, I'm a little bored of turkey sausage, I could not find orecchiette pasta this week for the life of me, and I generally love red sauce.  Easy, simple substitutions with delicious results. 

And if you burn the garlic, I won't tell.  I've done that too...only it wasn't a mistake, I was adding dimension :)

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Yields 4 servings

1 large bunch broccoli rabe, washed and 2" trimmed off the stems
8 oz orecchiette or conchigliette pasta (any small pasta with a shape that can hold your sauce)
1 lb lean chicken sausage, casings removed
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with their juices
1/2 cup low sodium, fat free chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Cut the broccoli rabe into quarters.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the broccoli.  Cook for about 2 minutes, drain, and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking process and keep the color vibrant green.  (Ideally you should submerge the veggies in an ice bath, but I don't always feel like dirtying another bowl!)  Set aside.

Re-fill the same pot with water, season with salt, and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large deep skillet over medium-high heat coated with cooking spray.  Brown the sausage, breaking it into small crumbles as it cooks.  When completely cooked, remove it from the skillet and set it aside. 

Add the olive oil to the same pan over medium-high heat.  When hot again, add the garlic and saute until golden in color.  Be careful not to burn it!  Then add back in the broccoli, mixing well with the garlic and oil, followed by the diced tomatoes and their juices.  Season with salt and pepper and cook about 1 minute. 

Return the cooked sausage to the pan and mix well.  Add in the pasta, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth, cheese, and red pepper flakes (optional).  Toss everything together and cook an additional minute.  Divide between 4 bowls (or just 2 if you're extra hungry!) and enjoy.

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