Sunday Suppers: Rustic Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe on Polenta

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“Rustic Italian.” In the last few years, those two words have become part of our culinary lexicon. Maybe it was Food Network star Giada DeLaurentis or the beloved Lidia Bastianich. It could have been the Italian wise-cracking, orange-clog-wearing Mario Batali. I'm not sure, and I don't care. I'm just glad Italian rustic cuisine is here to stay. Simple, fresh ingredients, paired beautifully; that's what rustic Italian cooking is all about.

It's also what I grew up eating in my Italian-American family in Providence, Rhode Island. And today's recipe pays homage to rustic Italian cooking and to my mom, who always made bitter broccoli rabe taste sweet to me. This dish is perfect for a Sunday supper, especially paired with a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad and some warm, crusty Italian bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil. Sit around the table with family and friends, let the wine flow, laugh, eat, laugh some more. That's what Sundays are for.

Rustic Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe on Polenta

Serves 4

Polenta:

1 cup polenta (corn grits), preferably medium coarseness

3 cups water (or more as needed)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Sausage and Broccoli Rabe:

1 bunch broccoli rabe, thick stems removed, chopped

1 tablespoon oilve oil

1 1/4 pounds Italian hot sausage, removed from casing

1 (14.5 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese

A long drizzle of quality extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a medium deep pot over high heat, add polenta, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and stir. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until creamy. If it gets to thick or dry, simply add a little more water.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe. Boil for 3 minutes then drain in a colander. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add sausage. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until browned and crisp. Add par-boiled broccoli rabe, cannelini beans, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir until combined, and heat through, about 3 minutes. To serve, transfer polenta to a serving platter. Spoon the sausage and broccoli rabe mixture on top leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with grated cheese and a long drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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