La Vera Cucina

Orecchiette alla Romana

Chef Noble Masi, who is a Heritage Professor at the Culinary Institute of America, remembers how, as a young boy, whenever his family enjoyed a meal of Orecchiette alla Romana, his mother sent him to school the next day with a sandwich filled with broccoli rabe! Here, Noble shares his family’s recipe for Orecchiette (O-reh key-eht-tay) alla Romana, featuring crumbled sweet Italian sausage, fresh broccoli rabe, and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese!


  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup onions, minced
  • 1½ cups tomato purée
  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage (cooked and crumbled)
  • ⅛ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • ⅛ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • ⅛ cup fresh salvia (sage), chopped
  • ⅛ cup fresh chives, finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 ounce bunch of broccoli rabe
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
  • 8 ounces orecchiette pasta (dry weight) cooked al dente Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated


Place 1 cup extra virgin olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until they begin turning translucent. Reduce heat to low; add tomato purée and simmer. Using a wooden spoon, stir crumbled sausage and red pepper flakes throughout sauce. Add herbs and cook another five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wash and trim broccoli rabe of leaves, flowers, and woody end of the stem. Peel and cut remaining stem at an angle into 1” pieces; blanch in boiling salted water for three minutes. Remove from heat; drain stems and shock in ice water. While pasta is cooking, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add 6 thin slices of fresh garlic and broccoli rabe. Briefly sauté until garlic begins to turn color.

Lightly toss broccoli rabe with pasta and sauce. Dust with Parmigiano Reggiano to taste and serve! (Makes four generous portions.)



For centuries, resourceful contadino cooks transformed inexpensive wheat flour and water into an intriguing variety of pasta shapes, textures, and sizes. Typical to the Puglia region in southeastern Italy, orecchiette (literally “little ears”) are named for their particular shape.

Orecchiette are formed by slicing ropes of rolled pasta dough into thin disks and indenting the center of each disk with a flour coated thumb or table knife. When cooked, their slightly cupped shape helps cradle the sauce they accompany!