Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Italian Turkey Sausage

On a recent trip to Manhattan, my husband and I wandered into Mario Batali’s famed Eataly, in search of lunch.

Happily, we ended up at the counter of Manzo, the meat- and pasta-oriented restaurant within the grand Italian food hall.

There I had a transcendent dish of pasta: Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pesto. It was, in a word, delicious; the perfect antidote for the cold winter wind outside.

I’ve been craving it ever since my return, so I took a stab at it, with a few minor tweaks to reflect my desire for healthier food: I swapped out the pork sausage for leaner turkey, and the regular pasta for whole wheat. The best part? It was still damn tasty.

And yes, it’s possible to find good whole wheat pasta that doesn’t disintegrate or turn gummy. I really like the Bionaturae brand found at Whole Foods.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Italian Turkey Sausage

Serves 8 as a side, 4 as an entrée

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, cleaned, and the bottom 1” of stems trimmed
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (or substitute sliced, toasted almonds)
  • ¼ cup each freshly grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-pound whole-wheat pasta (campanelle, orecchiette, or conchiglie work well, look for Bionaturae brand)
  • 2 uncooked, fresh Italian turkey sausages
  • 2 uncooked, fresh hot Italian turkey sausages

In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook broccoli rabe for about 6 minutes, until bright green and tender. Drain and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to shock and stop cooking. Drain in a colander.

In bowl of food processor, chop garlic. Add broccoli rabe, cheeses and nuts and pulse a few times to chop greens. With motor running, add oil through feed tube. Season to taste and transfer to a large serving bowl. Leave at room temperature.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook. Reserve ½ cup of cooking water. Drain and toss with broccoli rabe pesto and the reserved pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Squoosh the sausage out of the casings into the pan. Saute over medium-high heat, breaking meat into little clumps, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add to pasta and toss.

Serve with fresh pepper and a hunk of Parmesan for grating over the top.