Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Do this. Trust me. 🙂 via Smitten Kitchen

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Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Note from Smitten Kitchen: If you’d like a baked pasta with more sauce, which I expect most of you will, you’ll want to use 1 ½ times the bechamel and cheese below.

** I did increase the sauce and cheese, and I highly recommend it if you like your pasta coated in a rich, creamy pasta sauce. Below I’ve adjusted the amounts to reflect 1 ½ the original recipe.

Pasta and assembly
1 pound chunky pasta of your choice (I love bell shapes; see above for details) – I used fusilli
1 bundle broccoli rabe (see above for options), stems and leaves cut into 1-inch segments – our store was out so we used broccolette, which is precious
1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy pork or chicken), casings removed – I used spicy pork
2/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
6 ounces mozzarella, cut into small cubes – Note: I don’t think the mozzarella is necessary to the deliciousness of this recipe if you want to skip it, but if you have it at home, go for it.

Bechamel **See note, I’ve changed to 1 ½ the original recipe
2 cups milk, full fat is ideal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
Few gratings fresh nutmeg

Cook the pasta and rabe: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and five minutes before its cooking time is up, add the broccoli rabe. It will seem like too much for the water, but with a stir or two, the rabe should wilt and cook alongside the pasta. Drain the broccoli rabe and pasta together and place in a large bowl.

Cook your sausage: Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide saucepan (you will use this for the bechamel in a few minutes; you could also use your pasta pot, once it is drained) over medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes (it took me longer, fyi). Remove with slotted spoon or spatula, leaving any fat behind. Eyeball the drippings (pork sausage will leave some; chicken usually does not) — use one tablespoon less butter next if it looks like there’s a tablespoon there. Any less, don’t worry about adjusting the butter. I had enough drippings so I did reduce the butter.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Make the bechamel: Melt your butter in same saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add your flour and stir it into the butter until smooth. Cook the mixture together for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour in a small drizzle of your milk, whisking constantly into the butter-flour mixture until smooth. Continue to drizzle a very small amount at a time, whisking constantly. Once you’ve added a little over half of your milk, you’ll find that you have more of a thick sauce or batter, and you can start adding the milk in larger splashes, being sure to keep mixing. Once all of the milk is added, add the salt, garlic, nutmeg, and few grinds of black pepper, and bring the mixture to a lower simmer and cook it, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Assemble and bake: Add the sausage and bechamel to the bowl with the pasta and broccoli rabe. Stir in mozzarella and half of grated parmesan or pecorino until combined. Pour into a lasagna pan, deep 9×13-inch baking dish* or 3-quart casserole dish and coat with remaining parmesan or pecorino. For me it was a 9×13 glass casserole dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges and craggy points are nicely bronzed.

Eat warm. Reheat as needed.

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