Pasta alla Norcina

The hubs and I are both big fans of the America’s Test Kitchen cooking show on PBS.  We are fascinated by how methodical and particular they are about everything – you almost get the feeling that there is no way cooking a recipe from the show could go wrong.  They definitely try to foolproof all of their steps and explain to you just why they are cooking the way that they are.

Let’s be honest though, sometimes their recipes can be a bit on the putsy side – but nevertheless, have I ever complained that something didn’t taste good?  No.

Several months ago, actually just after I returned from Italy, we caught an episode for a pasta dish that reminded me of something that I ate in Tuscany, Pasta alla Norcina.  It’s basically orecchiette pasta tossed in a light creamy pork ragu…but it’s so much more than basic.  It is brilliant, fabulous, crave-worthy and definitely added to our list of regulars to make.

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Unfortunately the cooking process for this bad boy wasn’t so picture worthy – I kept thinking to myself, does anyone really want to see me stirring raw sausage and seasonings?  Probably not.  So, there aren’t many pictures to speak of.  But let it be known, this recipe is lethal – once you taste it, there’s no going back, you will be hooked.

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There are so many different amazing flavors to this – just promise me that if you make it, you won’t forgo the lemon juice.  I almost did, but I am so glad that I listened – it added a whole different dimension to the dish.  Just looking at these pictures has me drooling.  Yum.  That’s all that needs to be said.  Yum.  (Oh, and thank God it didn’t serve 4, because we would have eaten it all!)

Pasta Alla Norcina for 2:

Kosher salt and pepper
teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces ground pork
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Pinch ground nutmeg
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed
5 teaspoons vegetable oil
cup heavy cream
8 ounces (2 ¼ cups) orecchiette
¼ cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

1. Grease small dinner plate with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve 3/4 teaspoon salt and baking soda in 2 teaspoons water in medium bowl. Add pork and fold gently to combine; let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon garlic, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary, nutmeg, and 1/2 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 3-inch patty. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add patty and cook without moving it until bottom is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip patty and continue to cook until second side is well browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer (very center of patty will be raw). Remove pan from heat, transfer sausage to cutting board, and roughly chop into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer sausage to bowl and add cream; set aside.

4. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.

5. While pasta cooks, return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil, mushrooms, and pinch salt; cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon oil, remaining garlic, remaining ¼ teaspoon rosemary, and ¼ 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 sausage-cream mixture and 1/3 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 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.

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Buon appetito!

2 Comment

  1. Yum, what a great recipe to make for my Valentine! Love your recipes.
    Happy “V” day to you and your hubby.

    1. So glad that you enjoyed the recipe Lana!

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