Is there any meat more satisfying than sausages? If there is, I haven’t found it. And, in this typically Roman dish, sausages marry particularly well with broccoletti, the cruciferous vegetable known in English as ‘broccoli rabe‘. The slight bitterness of the broccoletti sets off the savory richness of the sausage perfectly.
You begin by browning some sausages—one or two per person—in lard (or olive oil, if you prefer) along with a clove or two of slightly crushed garlic and one or two dried chili peppers (peperoncini) in a braising pan until the sausages have nicely browned on all sides. In the meanwhile, blanch a bunch of broccoletti in a large pot of vigorously boiling salted water for no more than 3 minutes. When the sausages have browned, remove them to a plate and transfer the broccoletti with a slotted spoon to the braiser, mixing them well with the seasoned fat and seasoning them to taste. Now return the sausages to the pan, laying them on top of the greens, lower the heat and cover. Let the broccoletti and sausages braise until the greens are tender, the sausages cooked through and any liquid in the pan has evaporated.
NOTES: If the broccoletti are young and tender, you can eliminate the initial blanching and simply add them raw to the braising pan, but I find that the blanching cuts the cooking time down considerably and ‘sets’ the color of the greens. When transferring the greens from blanching pot to braising pan, there is no need to drain the greens perfectly—a bit of water will help them cook—but do not ‘water log’ them. If you do find that the greens are tender and the sausage is done before the liquid in the pan has fully evaporated, then remove the lid and raise the heat to high to cook off the excess liquid.
Just about any type of fresh pork sausage would work with this dish, but so-called ‘sweet’ Italian sausages (ie, not spicy) are the most typical choice. Just be sure that the sausages are not too lean (a common fault these days, at least here in the US) because they will inevitably dry out during the braising process.Unusually for a classic, there are relative few variations on the recipe. A few recipes call for adding wine (in the typical Italian manner, after the sausages are brown, allowing the wine to evaporate before adding the greens) and some call for black pepper in addition to, or instead of, the peperoncino.
In Pugliese cuisine, broccoletti are often paired with orecchiette, and if you cut up the sausages, you could use this dish as a condimento for pasta, something fairly common in Italian-American cooking. You can also find Italian recipes along these lines. as well as with polenta or even as a topping for pizza, but in Rome the dish, at least in my experience, is invariably served separately as a secondo.