Pasta with broccoli and sausage ragu recipe (with hidden veg for fussy eaters!)

We are a bit of a family divided when it comes to pasta sauces. Some like tomato-heavy sauces, some like cheesy toppings, I like creamy dishes and my youngest likes his plain with a splurge of mayo -yuk!

Recently I attended the launch of an Italian collaboration aimed at promoting the country's food, drink and culture in Britain called I Like Italian Food.

 Along with a whole host of other yummy dishes I was served Rigatoni with Pork Sausage and Broccoli Ragu which was completely different to anything I had ever eaten before.

Thankfully the people from I Like Italian Food helpfully shared the recipe on their magazine-style website so I could try and recreate the dish at home. They also said I could share it here so here goes:

 COOKING TIME about 15 minutes


• 600g broccoli
• 1 tbsp anchovy paste
• 1 tbsp tomato paste
• Extra virgin olive oil
• ½ onion
• 400g Rigatoni pasta
• 400g Italian sausage


Cut the sausage into small pieces and gently cook into a non-stick saucepan, without using added fats, such as oil or butter
Clean broccoli and cook in boiling, salted water.
Cut the onion into strips and sauté into another pan with the anchovy paste. Once melted, add broccoli and press with a wooden spoon. Stir in the sausage and the tomato paste.
Add some broccoli cooking water, simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat.
Cook your Rigatoni into the broccoli cooking water. Drain when pasta has reached the “al dente” stage. Toss the pasta with the sausage ragù.
ingredients for pasta with broccoli and sausage ragu

You'll see the recipe includes Italian sausage. Now I live in rural Hertfordshire so Italian deli's are few and far between. To be honest I wasn't entirely sure what type of Italian sausage the recipe called for.

My research did result in a hilarious conversation with a friend's Italian husband but that just resulted in lots of sniggering. Maybe New Year's Eve (after too much Prosecco) was not the time to ask him about his sausage.

A foodie friend suggested Spanish Merguez sausage - a spicy beef sausage with a similar taste to chorizo but softer- which they sell at our local farmer's market.

Spanish Merguez sausage

My friend donated a pack she had in her freezer for my experiment -when cooked it was lovely but it was not really like the sauce I had tried at the launch of I Like Italian Food. When fried it goes harder and quite oily- definitely worth thinking about for use in future pasta dishes.

broccoli, sausage and anchovy ragu

My son who babysits local children after school wanted to cook the recipe for his young charges and we decided to try it with good quality British sausages. This was nearer to the original. We chopped the sausages with the skins still on. I think maybe next time I might try sausage meat without skins.

teenager cooking on Rayburn  in traditional English kitchen

Their parents had provided pizza but they didn't seem bothered about the change of menu-the aroma of sizzling sausages, frying onions and anchovy paste and broccoli lured them into the kitchen as they asked what smelled so good. The dogs seemed quite interested too!

The pasta proved enormously popular with the children who asked for seconds and thirds. They didn't seem to notice the mushed in broccoli although a few of them did pick the onions out so I would suggest cutting them very finely if you want to avoid this.

Don't be put off by the anchovy paste - it just adds a salty flavour. We couldn't actually find ready-made paste so just used a 70g ton of anchovy fillets, drained off most of the oil then used a mortar and pestle to create our own paste - Grumpy really enjoyed helping with this.

making anchovy paste

You'll notice also we didn't use rigatoni. The reason for this is simple- when I went shopping conchiglie was on special offer at our local supermarket. As long as you choose a pasta shape suitable for chunky sauces (it usually says on the packet) the dish will be fine.

Conchiglie with broccoli and sausage ragu

My sauce was also slightly chunkier - but no-one seemed to mind! We served the pasta with garlic bread which meant it stretched to six children and two adults!
simple pasta dish recipe

Disclaimer: I received no recompense for sharing this recipe.