Everyone will love this vegetarian twist on rapini and sausage pasta. This rapini pasta made with rapini (broccoli rabe), canned chickpeas, onions and garlic. It comes together in 25 minutes, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner.
I absolutely love the bold, slightly bitter taste of rapini (also known as broccoli rabe). It’s one of my favorite greens and I almost always have a bunch in my crisper. It’s generally a side dish for me (roasted rapini is my go-to) but I love finding ways to really highlight this special ingredient.
Why this recipe works
The combination of sweet onion and garlic with bitter broccoli rabe is a classic for a reason–it’s that good. To make this vegetarian, I swapped the sausage for canned chickpeas, which add a fun textural element and add some protein.
This recipe draws inspiration from two beloved Italian pasta dishes: aglio e olio and orecchiette with sausage and rapini. In Italy, it’s not uncommon for pasta dishes to incorporate beans, which served as additional inspiration for adding chickpeas to this easy recipe.
Ingredients you’ll need
- The foundation of this pasta dish relies on the rich flavors of onion, garlic, and parsley, which are expertly cooked in olive oil to enhance their sweetness.
- Chili flakes not only provides a touch of heat but also emulates the spicy kick traditionally found in hot Italian sausage.
- One whole bunch of rapini is chopped into ½″ pieces, ensuring you get a piece in every bite.
- For the pasta, opting for small shells offers both convenience and accessibility, as this shape is readily available. Orecchiette, is a delicious alternative that can be used, but it is harder to find and comes with a higher price tag.
- Canned chickpeas are added to the seasoned oil, you do want them to get slightly crunch to add some textural notes to the pasta.
- Add a final touch of freshness and vibrancy by squeezing in some lemon juice, this helps to brighten up the flavors right at the end.
- While I always enjoy serving this dish with Parmesan cheese, it is optional and can be omitted if desired. In that case, taste the dish and you may find that it needs a little bit of extra salt.
Step by step instructions
- In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 3-5 minutes until they become translucent. Add garlic and chili flakes, season with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Continue cooking for another minute until the garlic becomes fragrant and sizzles.
- Add chickpeas to the pan, followed by the remaining salt. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Add rapini during the last two minutes of cooking. Reserve about ½ cup of pasta water before draining.
- Toss pasta and rapini with chickpea mixture. Add pasta water, parmesan cheese and lemon juice, toss to coat. The sauce should become slightly velvety and shiny.
- Serve with more parmesan cheese.
More vegetarian pasta recipes
- Pasta Salad with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
- Pasta with cherry tomatoes and garlic
- Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes