Norcia, which is in the mountains of southeastern Umbria, is famous for its delicious sausages. Pasta alla Norcina features savoury pork sausage and mushrooms in a light cream sauce. This version from Cook’s Illustrated calls for homemade sausage, which is surprisingly easy to make. I ground the pork myself, in a food processor, but you can buy pre-ground meat. This dish is absolutely delicious and is wonderful comfort food on a cold winter night.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Grind your own nutmeg or make sure the pre-ground version does not contain colour or anti-caking agents. I used a white wine with a sulfite level below 10 parts per million (from Frogpond Farm), fresh lemon juice and a Pecorino Romano cheese that contains only pasteurized sheep’s milk, bacterial culture, salt and rennet.

Form sausage meat into a patty

Brown the sausage on each side

Chop sausage and soak in cream

Brown the mushrooms

Add the sausage and cream to the mushrooms

Pasta alla Norcina


Kosher salt and pepper

¼ teaspoon (1 ml) baking soda

8 ounces (250 g) ground pork

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ¼ teaspoons (6 ml) minced fresh rosemary

⅛ teaspoon (0.5 ml) ground nutmeg

8 ounces (250 g) cremini mushrooms, trimmed

7 teaspoons (35 ml) vegetable oil

¾ cup (175 ml) heavy cream

1 pound (500 g) orecchiette

½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine

1 ½ ounces (43 g) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (¾ cup/175 ml)

3 tablespoons (45 ml) minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice


Grease large dinner plate with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve 1⅛ teaspoons (5.5 ml) salt and baking soda in 4 teaspoons (20 ml) water in medium bowl. Add pork and fold gently to combine; let stand for 10 minutes.

Add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) garlic, ¾ teaspoon (3 ml) rosemary, nutmeg, and ¾ teaspoon (3 ml) pepper to pork 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 (15.2 cm) patty. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses.

Heat 2 teaspoons (10 ml) oil in 12-inch (30.5 cm) 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 second side is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes longer (very center of patty will be raw). Remove pan from heat, transfer sausage to cutting board, and chop into ⅛- to ¼ -inch (0.32 cm to 0.64 cm) pieces. Transfer sausage to bowl and add cream; set aside.

Bring 4 quarts (3.8 L) water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add pasta and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1 ½ cups (375 ml) cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.

While pasta cooks, return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil, mushrooms, and ⅛ teaspoon (0.5 ml) salt; cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons (10 ml) oil, remaining garlic, remaining ½ teaspoon (2 ml) rosemary, and ½ teaspoon (2 ml) 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 ¾ cup (175 ml) 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.

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. Serves 6.

From Cook’s Illustrated