The are a number of Italian dishes that most Americans are familiar with…spaghetti carbonara, lasagna and fettuccine alfredo, to name a few. And then there are other more obscure authentic Italian pasta dishes that are so delicious that you wonder why they aren’t more popular here in the States. Pasta alla Norcina is definitely one of these recipes! Norcia (the namesake for this dish) is a town in Southeastern Italy known for, among other things, it’s sausage and ham. Sausage from Norcia is not the Italian sausage that you would find in your grocery store so this recipe solves that problem by creating a quick sausage out of fresh pork and the warm, earthy seasonings of garlic, nutmeg, rosemary and pepper. The sausage is then combined with chopped mushrooms, cream, wine, cheese, parsley and lemon juice to create a sauce that is…transformative. We used shell shaped pasta as the vehicle for the sauce and think this recipe is one of our best posts of recent history. We can’t wait to make it again!
This recipe called for a dry white wine and this Sauvignon Blanc did the trick! It’s pleasantly dry but also has a tart and citrusy brightness that cut through the richness of the sauce and complemented the pop of lemon in the sauce. It is also very good just on it’s own!
This was an excellent pale ale from a local brewery located in Alexandria, Virginia. I’ve had just about every beer that Port City brews but this is the first that we have paired on the blog. What I love about this pale ale is that it isn’t a wannabe IPA. Most pale ales these days are just a slightly less hoppy IPA… the essential pale ale is a very well balanced beer which is slightly hop forward but still well balanced by sweet malts. The body of the beer is nice and light with decent carbonation. It was perfect washing down the earthy, peppery, rich flavors of the dish with just enough flavor to stand up against the dish.
Pasta Alla Norcina:
Kosher salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons water
8 ounces ground pork
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 ¼ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed
7 teaspoons vegetable oil
¾ cup heavy cream
1 pound orecchiette
½ cup dry white wine
1 ½ ounces Pecorino Romano, grated (3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Grease large dinner plate with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve 1⅛ teaspoons salt and baking soda in water in medium bowl. Add pork and fold gently to combine; let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Add 1 teaspoon garlic, 3/4 teaspoon rosemary, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to pork and stir and smear with rubber spatula until well combined and tacky, 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer pork mixture to greased plate and form into rough 6-inch patty. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses.
3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add patty and cook without moving it until bottom is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip patty and continue to cook until second side is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes longer (very center of patty will be raw). Remove pan from heat and transfer patty to cutting board. Using tongs to steady patty, roughly chop into ⅛- to 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer meat to bowl and add cream; set aside.
4. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Stir in orecchiette and 2 tablespoons salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 11/2 cups cooking water, then drain orecchiette and return it to pot.
5. While orecchiette cooks, return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, mushrooms, and ⅛ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons oil, remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until completely evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in meat-cream mixture and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and simmer until meat is no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in Pecorino until smooth.
6. Add sauce, parsley, and lemon juice to orecchiette and toss well to coat, adjusting consistency with remaining cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.