Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Stromboli

By Patrizia Cucca

Let me tell you that nothing captures my attention like a story from my mother’s childhood. I am sure that many of you feel the same way and just eat them up, their stories, and hang on every word, and wait for the punch line, when their eager laughter spills out and binds our lives that much closer together. Italian moms are not normal moms. The more you meet people and learn about their families, the more you realize that there are some features that distinguish Italian mothers from all the other moms in the world. They are in ONE person, the love for food of 100 chefs, the strength of The Hulk, the investigation skills of an FBI agent, the perseverance of a Buddhist monk and the care of a million nurses. Foreigners think this is a stereotype, but if you are Italian, you have experienced it and you know it’s all true. Last night I had the pleasure of joining a group of fellow Neapolitans. I felt jovial and happy while listening to the ever so familiar Neapolitan dialect being spoken. The women in attendance had me mesmerized by their joking nature, their laughter and their giggles. In the big boot of Italy, there are dozens of dialects. In fact, almost every region has its own unique accent. While the literary Italian language is used throughout the country for law, business, and education, many people still use their region’s original dialect. Speaking in dialect is not always considered a good thing. It is spoken in the home, but not in all families, and often, those who speak Neapolitan don’t speak proper Italian. Come what may, families and merchants across Napoli often prefer to slip into the local dialect and speak Neapolitan. Neapolitan is a Romance language spoken by about seven or eight million people in southern Italy, especially in the city of Nàpule/Napoli and in Campania. When speaking in the Neapolitan dialect many vowels and endings are dropped. For example, the standard Italian Piove is written as Chiove and Ci veddiamo dopo is written as Ce verimm’ aròppo Also, many traditional Italian songs are written in this dialect, including the popular song O sole mio. It is an all but impossible language to learn. Imagine a pair of scissors taken to a steady stream of vowels, then chopped up and reassembled to form the linguistic equivalent of a tapeworm. Northern Italians find Neapolitan virtually incomprehensible and yet many are fascinated by this impenetrable dialect. So while sitting in a group of neopolitan speaking people the euphoria and nostalgia had me feeling like I was in a secret society. Neapolitan will forever remain the language of the people. Neapolitan is here to stay and what a joy it is. Listening to a room full of neopolitans inspired me to go out and pick up some rapini or some broccoli rabe.  Going to make something traditional and old school, something I have grown up eating and very much Napolitan. This is a gourmet sausage roll in my eyes. It’s filled with a delicious broccoli rabe and sausage filling to make this into a fabulous rolled sandwich baked to perfection! Of course you can leave the meat out if you’re a vegetarian, not a problem at all, still perfectly delicious! You can make a whole meal out of this and add an antipasto and some good Chianti and you are good to go. You need one batch of pizza dough, you can either buy it or make your own. I’d rather go out and buy a good quality pizza dough which fortunately we have many sources that surround us.
Broccoli Rabe & Sausage Stromboli
Ingredients: 1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems cleaned, 2 to 3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly or minced, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 pound Italian sweet or hot sausage in casing, Salt and pepper, Basic Pizza Dough
Directions: Wash the broccoli rabe well and let strain in a colander. Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil and add a little salt. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot and bring back to a boil, and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the broccoli rabe, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Run under cold water to cool down, drain and coarsely chop the broccoli rabe. Set aside. Meanwhile, remove the sausage from it’s casing, and crumble it well with your hands. Saute the sausage meat in a little oil for about 2 to 3 minutes until no longer pink. Set aside. In a large saute pan, add the garlic and the olive oil and heat over medium flame until garlic is golden. Add the broccoli rabe and toss a little to mix well. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the reserved cooking liquid and let simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the cooked sausage meat to this and mix well. Check seasoning. Cool down mixture if not using right away. Spread the pizza dough with the rabe mixture.
Roll the mixture up jelly roll style being careful to fold the ends in while rolling and then make sure to pinch the dough together to seal the edges Bake it seam side down so no leakage occurs.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until lightly golden and the crust is browned, about 20 minutes.

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