The backbone of this quick and easy dish is orecchiette—a round-shaped pasta named for the “little ears” they resemble. It’s traditionally associated with Apulia, the southern Italian region from which we drew our inspiration for this recipe. The pasta is tossed with bites of broccoli and sweet sausage, then given a nice coating of basil-packing pesto and Parmesan cheese.
Wash and dry all produce. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Trim woody bottom ends from baby broccoli, then cut stalks and florets into 1-inch pieces. Remove sausage from casings.
Once water is boiling, add orecchiette to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 9-11 minutes. Carefully scoop out and reserve ¼ cup pasta cooking water, then drain.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add baby broccoli and 2 tsp water. Cover and steam 3 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium high. Cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and tender, 3-6 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.
Heat another drizzle of olive oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, breaking up meat into pieces. Cook until crisp at edges and no longer pink, 4-5 minutes. Add a pinch of chili flakes (to taste) and cook another 30 seconds.
Add orecchiette, baby broccoli, pesto, pasta cooking water, and half the Parmesan to pan. Toss until everything is well-coated and a thick sauce has formed, 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide orecchiette mixture between plates. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and serve.