You know those restaurants where, no matter what mood you are in, it makes everything a little better? Where the food isn't too fancy, but delicious and comforting every time, and where you know you'll be treated well. For me, that restaurant is Frankie's 457 in Brooklyn. Of course, it helps that they have the loveliest garden in the five boroughs, with an outdoor bar and string lights (I'm always a sucker for string lights) that makes you feel like you have escaped the city to a magical place. Needless to say, it's one of my favorite restaurants and the one thing we order from there every single time is orecchiette with spicy sausage and broccoli rabe. It's always the perfect combination of greens, buttery pasta and spicy pork sausage – and last week, I realized it probably wouldn't be so difficult to make at home. (Spoiler: it's not – in fact, it might be mine and Ari's new favorite weeknight meal). I swapped the broccoli rabe for kale since that was all my grocery store had, and I think that it makes an excellent substitute – but you could just as easily stick with rabe, or try another hearty green like collards or Swiss chard.
Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Sausage and Kale (adapted from Mario Batali, serves 4-6)
1 lb orecchiette
4 tablespoons butter
1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
In a large pan, bring salted water to boil. Once boiling, cook pasta according to box instructions until al dente, then drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Cook until it starts to brown and smells a little nutty, 5-7 minutes. Pour all but about 1 tablespoon into a small bowl. Return pan to heat, and add sausage. Cook until brown, breaking it up with a spoon as you go, about 8 minutes. Add kale and red pepper flakes to pan, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until wilted, 5-7 minutes, covering if necessary.
Add pasta to sausage and greens, then add pasta water, reserved butter and Pecorino and toss to coat. Serve immediately with additional Pecorino and red pepper flakes.