There are an infinite number of ways to make pasta, but sometimes simplicity is the best option.
I’ve been making this simple recipe regularly since a roomate first showed it to me more than 23 years ago. Until then, pastas for me were always prepared with a dense red ragu sauce, a creamy al fredo sauce, or perhaps a sweet clam sauce.
The secret to this pasta is that there is no sauce. Just extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is one of the most flavorful of cooking oils. It has an excellent flavor that ranges from subtle to overpowering, depending on the grade of oil and where it came from. The best olive oils are called “extra virgin”, which means the oil was made by the first pressing of the olives, it has less than 0.8 percent free fatty acids, and its flavor was declared superior by a blind taste test panel.
I use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) almost exclusively in my home kitchen — for both dressings and for cooking. It has a lower smoke point, due to its lower free fatty acid content, but I think the flavor it adds is worth the sacrifice. If I really need to sear something super hot, I will use a canola oil. In commercial applications, I use all kinds of oils that are not relevant to the home cook.
The subtle tang of EVOO pairs naturally with the nutty sweetness of parmesan cheese, and that pairing is the basis for this pasta recipe. Until recently, I would use four separate pots and pans to make this recipe, but I learned that with a little planning, everything can be made in one pot. Much less cleanup afterwards!
Usually, I make this recipe with rigatoni because its shape is closest in size to the broccoli florets and sausage peices, so it works better aesthetically. But in the past I’ve also made it with penne and even spaghetti. Use whatever you prefer or happen to have on hand.
If you want to use only one pot for this recipe, it’s important to have everything prepped ahead of time because given the sequence of cooking, it’s hard to stop and start. The traditional term for this is “mise en place” (MEES en plahs), which is French for “Everthing in it’s place”.
One Pot Rigatoni with Broccoli and Italian Sausage
3/4 lb spicy Italian sausage, skin removed and cut into 1″ chunks
1 lb box dry rigatoni
2 TBS EVOO
1/2 lb broccoli
1/2 medium white onion, medium dice
1/2 green pepper, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice
4-5 white mushrooms, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1/4 cup EVOO
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rigatoni and cook according to package directions, about 7-9 minutes. Strain in a colander, but don’t rinse with water. Occasionally give it a shake to keep the pasta from sticking together.
2. Return pot to fire. When hot, add 2 TBS of EVOO. When smoking, add onions and peppers and cook until onion just start to be translucent, about three minutes, stirring frequently. Add sausage and cook until meat begins to brown, about another three minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms start to brown, about another two minutes, then add garlic and cook another minute. Then add broccoli, stir so that everything is covered in oil, then add water or stock, cover and cook until broccoli is soft, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. During the last minute, return the pasta to the pot and toss, then cook the final minute to reheat the pasta.
3. Remove from heat and stir in EVOO, parmesan and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To plate, mound in center of pasta bowls and top with additional parmesan for garnish.
If you happen to have sliced black olives lying around, they also fit in nicely with this dish.
What tried and true recipes have you been making for decades? Share you wealth in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!