Pasta gnocchi with broccoli rabe alla Sarda is fresh and flavorful, yet also light and healthy. “Where I come from, the island of Sardinia off the west coast of Rome, we prefer lighter sauces,” says Riccardo Mavuli, chef/owner of Gusto Trattoria in Milford. “We like the natural flavors of the foods without changing the composition too much.”
Mavuli would make pasta with his mother when he was a kid. “I remember her making the homemade gnocchi and adding different vegetables. She’d make this recipe from scratch.”
Home cooks can easily put their own spin on the dish. “Broccoli rabe is a healthy vegetable and popular among customers today. Pick your favorite or your family’s favorite vegetables, add it to the pasta, go with the natural flavors of the food, and you’ll have a simple and delicious recipe. You can also add fresh, ground, crumbled sausage.”
Mavuli suggests serving the dish alongside any meat, chicken or white fish, especially in springtime. “It’s perfect because you’re choosing your favorite fresh vegetables and it’s a lighter dish that’s easy for everyone to make, and you can be creative with it,” Mavuli says.
“Cooking is an art, but I try to keep to the originality of the food. I stay focused to get the flavors out of the foods without changing the character of the food itself.”
Pasta gnocchi and broccoli rabe alla Sarda
Makes 4 servings • Time: About 20 min.
1½ pounds potato gnocchi (any brand is fine)
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ pound fresh, crumbled Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 wedge, or ¾ of a cup, pecorino Sardo cheese (you can also substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano, if preferred)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Add about 6 cups of water to an 8-quart pot; add salt to taste. Once the water comes to a boil, drop in the potato gnocchi.
- While the gnocchi is cooking, place the broccoli rabe in a 13-inch pan with a small amount of water and a pinch of salt and steam it for 5 minutes until al dente.
- In a sauté pan, add the olive oil and sausage. Sauté on low for 4-5 minutes until well cooked, brown, and the pieces have no pink color. Add the garlic after the sausage is cooked and stir so it does not burn but gets a little golden in color.
- The potato gnocchi is cooked when they float to the top. Using a straining spoon, place the gnocchi in a large serving bowl. Add the steamed broccoli rabe and the sausage. Combine by carefully stirring all the ingredients together.
- Add the butter on top just before serving while the dish is warm. Stir again to be sure everything is blended. Be sure to taste it before adding the salt and pepper. The natural spices and flavors in the fresh sausage might be enough; it varies based on the type of sausage.
- When serving, grate some fresh pecorino sardo on top.