If you can’t find mezzi rigatoni, use another tube-shaped pasta, such as ziti, penne, gomiti, or rigatoni, to catch the bits of sausage and escarole. This recipe uses only the coarser outer leaves of escarole, so save the inner parts of the head for salad or for a recipe such as Escarole Gratin (page 164). This is a crowd pleaser.
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1¼ pounds sweet Italian sausage without fennel seeds (about 6 links), removed from casings
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Outer leaves from 2 heads escarole, coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
- 1 pound mezzi rigatoni
- 1½ cups chicken stock (page 148)
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage. Break the meat up with a wooden spoon, and cook until it’s no longer pink, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and let sizzle a minute. Add the chopped escarole, in batches if necessary, and season with the salt. Cover the escarole, and let it wilt, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the water. Once the escarole has wilted, uncover and add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the escarole is tender and the sauce has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
When the pasta is al dente, remove it with a spider and transfer directly to the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding a little pasta water if it seems dry. Turn off the heat, and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Toss and serve.