Orechiette with Italian Sausage and Rapini

rigatoni orechiette pasta
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Toronto Cooks cookbook

I got a fun Christmas prezzie this year: Toronto Cooks: 100 Signature Recipes from the City’s Best Restaurants. My family loves pasta, so my first trial was Mercatto‘s Orechiette with Italian Sausage and Rapini. Executive Chef Doug Neigel keeps it simple with just a few traditional ingredients, so the dish comes together quickly. The addition of white wine and high-quality Grana Padano cheese kicks it up a tasty notch.  To make it healthier, I used brown rice pasta, organic chicken sausages and olive oil (instead of butter). It was delicious; even my picky 4 year old gobbled it up!

“Toronto Cooks” cookbook

I also like how using the same water to cook rapini and pasta is both time-saving and eco-friendly! 🙂  If orechiette is not available, any short pasta like macaroni or fusilli would work great too.

Click here for more healthy pasta recipes!



  • 1 bunch rapini, 2 inches trimmed from bottom of stalks
  • 1 package brown rice pasta shells
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 chicken sausages, casing removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 tbsp grated Grana Padano cheese (you can also you Parmesan or Asiago)
  • salt and pepper, to taste



In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Add rapini, return to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes, or until tender. Transfer rapini to a colander and drain well. When cool enough to handle, chop into 1-inch pieces.

Bring water back to a boil. Add orechiette pasta and give a good stir. Reduce heat to medium- high and cook according to package directions. When cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.

In a large heavy—bottomed saucepan over medium—high heat, heat a couple table spoons of olive oil. Add sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon and cook until browned on all sides. Add chopped rapini. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in garlic and chili pepper. Add white wine and ‘/2 cup reserved pasta water (this will give some starch and body to the sauce). Add drained pasta. Reduce heat to low. Add remaining olive oil and cheese and combine well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve, mound pasta into a large serving dish or divide among individual serving bowls. Grate more cheese overtop, if desired.

Image: Naotake Murayama via Flickr

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I'm a Canadian mother of two with a passion for food and cooking. I'm increasingly discovering that delicious food can also be healthy! So, I am sharing my favourite recipes with like-minded home cooks. Along the way, I'll also be writing about food-related topics such as gadgets, books and television. Let the culinary adventures begin!

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