Wanna step up your pasta game? Make this Italian pasta dish, Pasta alla Norcina with mushrooms and easy, 10-minute homemade sausage. Tossed with a creamy white wine sauce, this dish is incredibly flavorful and deeply comforting.
I've been eyeing this recipe for Pasta alla Norcina since Christmas when I found it in Cook’s magazine, my new subscription given to me as a gift from my stepdaughter and stepson. Anything cooking-related like recipes, kitchen gadgets, etc. will make a perfect gift for me. You don't even have to wait for a perfect occasion, I accept them year-round. 😉
Why was I so excited about this particular pasta recipe? For ones, it is an authentic Italian recipe or at least as close as it gets without going to Italy. Which I will. This June. I. Can't. Wait.
Second, the recipe revealed the greatest, most revolutionary thing of all: you can make your own sausage! In your kitchen! In about 10 minutes! How could I not be excited about that?
Pasta alla Norcina is even better the next day, I swear. It’s the best. Sometimes I say to myself, Jas, is anyone really going to believe you when you say that - and then I fill in the blanks with whatever recipe I'm about to share with you and tell you - it’s the best. And the world is full of the best recipes.
For example: have you ever searched for a chocolate chip cookie recipe and found The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Ever? Yeah, that and every recipe ever made is the best to someone.
Why would you believe me when I tell you this is the best pasta recipe? Is it really going to get you into your kitchen to make your own sausage when you much rather go to an Italian restaurant and let them cook for you? It is your choice, but if you need to impress your dinner guests this is definitely that one Italian dish you want to serve.
In fact, it's so good, I just had to update the recipe (originally posted in 2014) so it's more comprehensive for you as well as add new photos. I'm also entering it into our monthly Noodles Without Borders project because it deserves a special spot.
WHAT IS NOODLES WITHOUT BORDERS PROJECT?
Noodles Without Borders is a monthly challenge that my friend Bobbi of Healthy World Cuisine and I started in August last year. We each share around-the-world yummy pasta recipe on the first Tuesday of every month. Make sure to visit Bobbi and get her recipe for nourishing slurping noodle!
Why pasta? It's such a versatile, international, comforting, and easy ingredient that everyone loves. Tag you pasta recipes with #noodleswithoutborders on Instagram so we can find you!
Pasta alla Norcina is a typical recipe from the ancient Italian town of Norcia, in the southeastern Umbria region. This pasta dish showcases pork sausage and mushrooms in a light creamy sauce. The Umbria region is noted for its sausage and other pork products since the 9th century when the Lombards who occupied the region learned how to preserve pig meat with salt. Thus, a pig butcher anywhere in Italy is called a norcino.
The Italians are very, very particular about what type of pasta they use in which particular recipe, so they'd suggest penne or rigatoni pasta here. However, the recipe in Cook's magazine used orecchiette and that's what I'm using. Sue me, I don't care. 😜
WHAT IS ORECCHIETTE?
Orecchiette (meaning small ears) pasta is popular pasta is Southern Italy, typically served with meat such as pork. Hence, it's perfect for this recipe.
HOW TO MAKE IT?
- Make the Sausage - Mix salt, baking soda, and water in a medium bowl until dissolved. Combine with ground pork and let stand 10 minutes. Mix in garlic, rosemary, nutmeg, and pepper. Smear with a rubber spatula until well combined and sticky, 20-30 seconds. (see recipe notes). Form the sausage into a rough patty
- Cook the sausage in a cast iron or non-stick skillet without moving until the bottom is browned. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into pieces. Transfer to a bowl and add heavy cream. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to the package directions.
- Meanwhile, cook sliced mushrooms with salt until lightly browned. Add garlic, rosemary, and pepper. Deglaze the pan with wine. Add sausage and cream and simmer until meat is no longer pink. Stir in Pecorino until smooth.
- Mix sauce with pasta, add lemon juice and parsley, and toss well.
I CAN'T FIND ORECCHIETTE AT MY LOCAL GROCER, WHAT PASTA SHOULD I USE?
Any small pasta, like shells or macaroni, is ok. Mind you, it's not a crime to use whatever pasta you have on hand.
CAN I USE STORE-BOUGHT ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE INSTEAD OF MAKING MY OWN?
Absolutely! But only if you're in a rush. Do you have 10 minutes? Trust me, making your own sausage is the most satisfying thing in the world. Right next to making bread. You'll feel like such a kitchen pro with minimum effort. And you get the bragging rights! Your guest will think that you slaved for hours making it and then cured the sausage for months.
· Smearing meat with a rubber spatula - The science behind it is that working seasonings into the sausage with a spatula distributes their flavor thoroughly and creates sausage texture. By “smearing” the mixture, we’re forcing the meat’s proteins to stretch out and link up together. It makes the pork appear thick and sticky.
· Orecchiette is prone to nest and stuck - To prevent this, add pasta to the pot with cold water with 1 tablespoon oil. Stir often even before the water starts to boil.
· Did you know that lemon juice brings out flavors in pasta? Drizzle fresh lemon juice over your pasta alla Norcina.
· Make different flavor sausage - Add fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander or caraway. How about caramelized onions? Why not, it’s super easy.
· How much sauce? - Even if it looks like you have too much and kind of a runny sauce, the sauce will thicken and the pasta will absorb all of it as it cools down. Trust me on this. I learned it the hard way. If you don't have enough sauce your leftovers will be too dry the next day.
IF YOU LIKE THIS PASTA RECIPE TRY THESE:
PRODUCTS USED FOR THIS RECIPE:
I probably sound like a broken record, but if you don't own a cast-iron skillet, you better get one now! I use mine in 90% of the food I cook. They have plenty of benefits: they're non-stick, they're chemical-free, they're easy to clean, they go from stovetop to oven, they have a long lifespan and are nearly indestructible, they fortify your food with iron, and best of all - they're inexpensive!
Cast iron cookware makes cooking much easier! If you haven't already, you'll definitely need to pick at least one up. I suggest a 12-inch as it is big enough but not too big.
You can never have enough mixing bowls if you ask me. Any bowls will do a job, but I prefer a glass bowl with a lid. I used to have stainless steel colored bowls, but after a few times in my dishwasher, the color started to peel off. The bowls are still functional but ugly AF. You can browse and find the ones you like the most.
We tend to skimp on good quality cutting boards and use cheap, plastic, and rubber boards or put it on our wish list that never gets fulfilled because our dear family thinks they know you better and buy you something completely different that you don't have a use for. Sound familiar? Seriously, what's the point of asking us what we want if they're not going to buy it? 🤷♀️
So do yourself a favor and get a good cutting board. You will love bamboo boards, not only because they're not expensive but also because they're light in weight, durable, and protects your cutlery. Have I mentioned they look pretty too?
Pasta alla Norcina
For the sausage
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 ½ tablespoon water
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary minced
- ¼ ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ¾ cup heavy cream
For the pasta
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta we like DeLallo, or any small pasta such as shells
- 3 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
- 6-8 ounces Crimini mushrooms trimmed and sliced
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary minced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¾ cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated (Parmesan is a good substitute)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Shaved parmesan cheese for garnish optional
For the sausage
- In a medium bowl, mix salt and baking soda in water until dissolved. Add pork and fold gently to combine; let stand 10 minutes.
- Add garlic, rosemary, nutmeg, and pepper to pork and smear with a rubber spatula until well combined and sticky, 20 to 30 seconds (see recipe notes). Transfer pork mixture to a greased plate and form into a rough patty to fit your skillet.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add patty and cook without moving it until bottom is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip patty and continue to cook until the second side is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes longer (very center of the patty will be raw).
- Remove pan from heat, transfer sausage to cutting board, and chop into ¼ inch pieces. Transfer sausage to a large bowl and add cream; set aside.
For the pasta
- Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente stirring often.
- Reserve 1 ½ cups cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.
- While pasta cooks, return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil, mushrooms, and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring frequently until mushrooms are lightly browned. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons oil, garlic, rosemary, and pepper to taste; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until completely evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir sausage-cream mixture and ¾ cup reserved cooking water and simmer until meat is no longer pink. Remove pan from heat and stir in Pecorino until smooth.
- Add sauce, parsley, and lemon juice to pasta and toss well to coat. Before serving, adjust consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, top the pasta with shaved parmesan cheese and sprinkle with more parsley.
- Smearing meat with a rubber spatula - The science behind it is that working seasonings into the sausage with a spatula distributes their flavor thoroughly and creates sausage texture. By “smearing” the mixture, we’re forcing the meat’s proteins to stretch out and link up together. It makes the pork appear thick and sticky.
- Orecchiette is prone to nest and stuck - To prevent this, add pasta to the pot with cold water with 1 tablespoon oil. Stir often even before the water starts to boil.
- Did you know that lemon juice brings out flavors in pasta? Drizzle fresh lemon juice over your pasta alla Norcina.
- Make different flavor sausage - Add fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander or caraway. How about caramelized onions? Why not, it’s super easy.
- How much sauce? - Even if it looks like you have too much and kind of a runny sauce, the sauce will thicken and the pasta will absorb all of it as it cools down. Trust me on this. I learned it the hard way. If you don't have enough sauce your leftovers will be too dry the next day.