The backbone of this dish is orecchiette—a round-shaped pasta named for the “little ears” they resemble. The pasta is tossed with bites of broccoli and sweet sausage, and then given a nice coating of basil-packing pesto and Parmesan cheese. It works wonderfully as a side dish for 6-8 hungry mouths (just in time for Thanksgiving), but you can also enjoy it as a meal for two any night of the week.
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Sweet Italian Pork Sausage
Wash and dry all produce. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut any large broccoli florets into bite-size pieces. Remove sausage from casings.
Once water is boiling, add orecchiette to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 9-12 minutes. Carefully scoop out and reserve ¼ cup pasta cooking water, then drain.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add broccoli and 2 tsp water. Cover and steam 3 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium high. Cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and tender, 3-6 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.
Heat another drizzle of olive oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, breaking up meat into pieces. Cook until crisp at edges and no longer pink, 4-5 minutes. Add a pinch of chili flakes (to taste) and cook another 30 seconds.
Add orecchiette, broccoli, pesto, pasta cooking water, and half the Parmesan to pan. Toss until everything is well-coated and a thick sauce has formed, 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer pasta mixture to a serving dish (or serve it straight from the pan). Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and serve, letting everyone help themselves.