Orrechiette with fennel sausage and rainbow chard

Orechiette with sausage and chard is my all time favorite pasta!  I had the original version at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles and fell in love.  I was extremely happy to find the recipe in the Mozza cookbook.  And you can imagine my delight when I received the rainbow chard in my home delivery organic box from Melissa’s.  Just another excuse to blow off my low carb diet and enjoy this dish.  Hey, Melissa’s wouldn’t have put it in my box if they didn’t want me to make it!

My version is only slightly healthier than the original recipe.  I used chicken sausage instead of pork sausage, and less butter than the original.  I make my own chicken stock as well, it’s worth the effort in flavor.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Chard

For the chard:

  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried arbol chiles

For finishing and serving the pasta:

  • 1 pound Italian style chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe’s brand, or use pork sausage if you like)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

To prepare the chard: pull leaves from ribs.  Roughly chop leaves and set aside.  Slice ribs into 1/4″ thick pieces.

Rainbow Chard

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking, about 2 minutes.  Add ribs, season with salt and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add onion, garlic and chiles and sauté for 10 minutes, adding just enough water to the pan to prevent the vegetables from browning and the pan from drying out, up to 1 cup total throughout the cooking process.  Add the chard leaves, reduce heat to low and cover.  Continue to cook for 20 minutes, until the leaves are very dark and all of the vegetables are very soft.

Chard mixture

Place on a cutting board and finely chop to the point of being almost puréed.  Measure out a heaping 1/4 cup of the chard mixture to use for this recipe, reserving the rest to use under grilled fish..or chicken..or whatever you like!

Fill a pasta pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.  Follow the directions on the package for cooking time.  Cook slightly under the time suggested as you will be adding to the sauce to finish cooking.

Heat bread crumbs and olive oil in a small pan until lightly browned.

To make the sauce: heat a pan over high for 2 minutes until very hot.  Add sausage and cook, breaking into small pieces until cooked through.  Add the heaping 1/4 cup of chopped chard mixture to combine.  Add chicken stock, butter and fennel.  Shut off heat and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter.  Add the cooked pasta to the sauce to coat.  Serve, sprinkled with the toasted bread crumbs.