Orecchiette alla Pugliese is the signature pasta dish of Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot. Cooking the pasta in the broccoli rabe cooking water enhances the lush color and hearty flavor of the dish, and a drizzle of Puglian olive oil finishes it all off with an extra touch of regional authenticity.
Remove the sausages from their casings, coarsely chop and sauté over high heat until nicely browned. Set the meat on a paper towel-lined plate to drain completely.
Separate the stems, leaves and florets of the broccoli rabe.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a handful of salt. Add just the broccoli rabe stems and boil for at least 15 minutes. Next add the leaves and boil 10 minutes. Finally, add the florets and boil 5 minutes more.
Remove the broccoli rabe from the water and squeeze it dry over the pot, reserving all the cooking water. Coarsely chop the broccoli and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is golden, but not brown. Remove from the heat, stir in the sausage and broccoli rabe and season with salt and pepper.
Cook the orecchiette in the broccoli water until al dente. Drain and immediately toss with the sausage and broccoli mixture.
Serve in warm pasta bowls, drizzled with additional olive oil.