Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is a hearty dish combining pasta with sweet Italian sausage links and semi-bitter greens.  But the key to sweetening broccoli rabe is in one simple trick that will make this pasta dish sensational! 

Make it special…

I haven’t made pasta in a while, and since my family was craving it, I decided to make this penne dish with sausage and broccoli rabe for dinner. Penne is a hearty pasta and it goes well with crumbled sausages and tender greens.   

And for years, I personally didn’t care for broccoli rabe, until my brother showed us how to make it, and how to make it taste delicious and not bitter!   

We have been making his version of Broccoli Rabe Steamed and Sauteed ever since! I paired his recipe with sweet sausages and tossed them over pasta, and … Mmmmm – it’s so good – you’ll want to eat two bowls of it. 

Penne pasta tossed with crumbled sausage and broccoli rabe on a white and blue plate.


So what is broccoli rabe?

Broccoli rabe is a green vegetable usually found in the height of the fall and winter season when the broccoli rabe is at its peak. Loaded with iron and Vitamin C, Broccoli Rabe is a high nutrient-dense vegetable that’s satisfying and will keep you feeling full longer. 

Tips when buying it… 

  • For the best quality, look for the “ANDY BOY” brand on the label. 
  • Make sure the little florets are totally green, and not showing any signs of yellow in them. 
  • The ends should look crisp, and not mushy to the touch.  

How to clean it properly…

  • First, cut off the ends (about 2 to 3-inches from the bottom) of each bunch, and discard them. 
  • Then remove the very large leaves from each bunch, and throw those out as well.  Those large leaves are the bitter-part of the vegetable.
  • Next, cut the remaining bunch into thirds again.  It’s easier to grab a forkful when the length of stems is about 2-inches long. 
  • Photos on how to clean and cut broccoli by
  • Submerge the cut broccoli rabe into a large bowl of running water. 
  • Rinse the broccoli, drain and discard the water, then refill the bowl again with water.  Rinse them the second time and drain them in a colander.
  • Now they are ready for the recipe.

So what’s the secret? 

  • When we cook broccoli rabe with fresh garlic and some vegetable broth, it changes these semi-bitter greens to a sweeter, more delicious tasting vegetable. 
  • They make a healthy side dish that goes perfectly with some protein, and especially with Italian sweet sausages.

4-easy-steps to making this it…

  1. First, cook the crumbled sausage until it’s brown and fully cooked (follow directions in the recipe card below).  Transfer the cooked sausage into a nearby bowl.
  2. Next, toss in the broccoli rabe, with a few more ingredients.  Cover and simmer for about one minute, or until the rabe wilts.  Keep in mind, broccoli rabe cooks up quickly. 
  3. Transfer the crumbled sausage back into the skillet with the broccoli rabe. Pour in some broth and butter, and COVER.  Continue to simmer for a few minutes more.  The broccoli rabe should be a dark green color and tender to the bite. 
  4. When ready, turn off the heat and uncover.  Otherwise, the rabe will continue to cook and will become too soft and mushy.   
3 steps to cooking sausages in a skillet with broccoli rabe.

Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and toss in the penne pasta.  Drain when the pasta is ready.  Then toss everything together and serve with some grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese at the table.

QUICK NOTE: Sometimes both the sausage and broccoli will absorb most of the liquid in the skillet. When it does, drizzle additional extra virgin olive oil into the pot to give it more moisture before serving.  

Skillet with broccoli rabe and crumbled sausages.

Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe will make a hearty meal, and it’s ready to serve in under 30 minutes.  Perfect!


Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe by

More Skillet and One-Pot Wonders…

Your comments help us! If you make this delicious Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, let us know and leave a comment and star rating in our recipe card above! We’d love to hear from you!  

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Penne pasta tossed with crumbled sausage and broccoli rabe on a white and blue plate.
Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is a popular Italian dish combining pasta with sweet sausage links and healthy greens. A delicious dinner in one dish, and sweetening the broccoli rabe will make this pasta dish even more sensational! 
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 4 Italian sweet sausage links, casings removed, and break up into chunks.
  • 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil - DIVIDED, plus extra
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves - diced or minced
  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe, florets plus tender stems and leaves only
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 4 Tbsp. butter - divided
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and extra for serving
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta


  1. In a large pot, filled with water for the penne pasta. Place it on the stovetop and bring the water to boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Then, with a slotted spoon, remove the cooked crumbled sausages and transfer them to a nearby bowl.
  3. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Toss in the garlic and saute the garlic until it softens about 1 minute.
  4. Add the wet broccoli rabe along with any water that clings to the leaves. COVER with a lid. As soon as the broccoli wilts, about 30 seconds - add in the red pepper flakes and salt to the broccoli.
  5. NEXT, Transfer the cooked sausage back into the skillet. Pour in the chicken or vegetable stock, and 2 tablespoons of butter (or instead of butter, you can add extra virgin olive oil).

    COVER and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces a little, about 2 to 3 minutes. Broccoli rabe cooks quickly and should be dark green and fork-tender. Taste, and season with salt and pepper to your preference. Then turn off the heat. ... and UNCOVER the skillet.

  6. Meanwhile, toss in penne pasta into the boiling water and cook the pasta,, until al-dente. Drain the pasta and transfer the pasta back into the large pot. Toss in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
  7. Toss with the broccoli-rabe mixture and 3 tablespoons of grated pecorino cheese.
  8. Optional: You can drizzle additional 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over the entire pasta mixture, stir, and serve.
  9. Serve immediately with grated pecorino cheese at the table.


Keep in mind, after the broccoli rabe is cooked to your liking, you must remove the cover from the skillet. Otherwise, it will continue to cook the greens and they will get overcooked, and even mushy.

Nutrition Information:


5 servings

Serving Size:

1 serving

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 723Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 19gCarbohydrates: 15.1gFiber: 1.1gSugar: 1gProtein: 36g

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    1. Thanks so much, Rhonda! And welcome to our recipe blog, it is so nice to meet you! 🙂 Looking forward to hearing from you again and soon. Enjoy your weekend!

    1. Thanks so much! This is an old classic dish and one that is commonly cooked at most Italian restaurants. I hope you will give it a try …ENJOY! 🙂

  1. Our tastes are so similar when it comes to what we cook. This is one of my husband’s and my favorite pasta dishes but most of the time I use orecchiette. We even use the same cheese…pecorino cheese. 😊

    1. LOVE it, Karen! .. what do they say…great minds think and cook alike? haha…. 🙂