Lemony Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

April 5, 2019

[Welcome to Even Better on American Home Cook, where I update AHC oldies with new knowledge, better techniques, and extra focus on weeknight time constraints. Enjoy this story from January 2018, with an Even Better recipe.]


I ran into it abruptly like seeing an old friend in an unexpected place.

One brisk morning at the farmer’s market, I spotted the lime green, horn-like florets next to a basket of leeks.

It was unmistakably the elusive Romanesco broccoli.

Romanesco broccoli, image from myrecipies.com

I first had Romanesco broccoli while studying abroad, but I’d never seen it in America until that fortuitous encounter.

I scooped up the last two heads in the store, excited to reunite with a past fling from overseas.

Overhead view of cooked sausage and broccoli in a skillet.

My Roman host mother first served Romanesco broccoli to me at dinner one night. She called it cavolo, which translates to “cabbage” in English. Gesturing to the vegetable with an eyebrow raised, she was baffled that I’d never heard of it. To the Romans it’s as common as an Idaho potato.

So is it broccoli? Cauliflower? Cabbage?

It doesn’t matter.

Up-close view of sausage and broccoli pasta in a white bowl.

It has a psychedelic, unfriendly appearance but astonishingly familiar taste. It’s sweeter than broccoli, more cruciferous than cauliflower, and soaks up buttery olive oil like a fresh summer squash.

I couldn’t contain my excitement when I first tried it- in pasta drenched with olive oil and pecorino cheese (as the Romans do).

Overhead view of sausage and broccoli pasta in a white bowl.

Delizioso! I exclaimed over and over, because that was (literally) the only thing I knew to say.

My host mom continued to serve the Romanesco broccoli in some form while it was in season, convinced it was il mio preferito. 

Overhead view of cooked sausage and garlic in a white bowl.

Romanesco for the American Home Cook

Pasta was the first thing I thought of when I picked up the mutant broccoli that day. I decided to recreate the dish I had in Rome, but add my American twist to it (spicy sausage and a hefty dose of garlic).

The recipe below calls for regular broccoli (try it with broccoli rabe!) because it’s hard to find Romanesco, but definitely snag some if you can.

Overhead, up-close view of sausage and broccoli pasta in a white bowl.

The subtly sweet, tender broccoli paired with bites of juicy sausage and a squeeze of lemon creates a pasta that would even make my mamma italiana proud.

I can’t return to Rome over and over, but I can make this pasta as much as I want. I’m back in my native country speaking English, but there’s still only one way I know to describe it: delizioso.

WATCH how to make Lemony Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli 👇

Lemony Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 4.88 out of 5)
Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes

A delicious, healthy broccoli pasta recipe that's so good it would make an Italian mother proud. Spicy sausage, zesty lemon, parmesan cheese, yum!


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces spicy pork sausage (about 4 links), casings removed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 head of broccoli (1¼–1½ pounds), cut into small florets, stalk peeled and chopped into ½" pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon, about 1/4 cup
  • 12 ounces dried short pasta, such as rotini or fusili
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving



Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or large skillet with high sides. Add the sausage and sauté for 4–6 minutes, breaking up the pieces until they are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant and soft (but not browned) and the sausage is cooked through. Turn off heat and transfer sausage/garlic to a bowl, leaving most of the fat behind.


Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain and reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking liquid.


Add broccoli to now-empty skillet, cover, and steam on medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, adding a splash of pasta water if pan seems dry. Cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender and bright green. Try not to overcook, it will continue to steam after it’s mixed with the pasta. Season with salt (about 1 teaspoon). Add the sausage/garlic back to the skillet and pour the lemon juice over everything. Toss together, then cover, off heat, to keep warm.


Add the pasta to the skillet with the sausage/garlic/broccoli. Scatter the pieces of butter on top. Turn the heat up to medium, add 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and toss, toss, toss for 2 minutes, until the pasta is cooked through and the starchy pasta water emulsifies with the butter.


Stir in the Parmesan cheese until it is fully incorporated, about 1 minute more. Add more cooking liquid if the pasta seems dry. Off heat, taste for seasoning. Adjust until you’re compelled to bring your fingers to your lips and kiss them like the Italians do in movies (they do not do this in real life).


Serve with extra Parmesan and a lot of freshly cracked black pepper.


  • 653 Calories


The hearty sausage and pasta in this dish calls for a red, but nothing too high alcohol or full-bodied. That will overpower the pasta and make it too spicy. Try a refreshing Gamay, Pinot Noir, or Chianti Classico.

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  • Reply
    Roslia Santamaria
    May 28, 2019 at 4:33 am

    This looks super tasty!! I can’t wait to give it a try! It’s all delicious ingredients 🙂

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