The area of Italy containing the town of Norcia was hit by an earthquake back in October. While the deathtoll wasn't huge, most of the villagers having been evacuated after an earlier quake, the destruction of buildings and cultural heritage was significant.
Norcia, in the mountains of southeastern Umbria, is famous for it’s black truffles and pork, particularly sausages and salami. Like many areas of Italy Norcia is famous for a unique pasta dish which features the tastes of the local area. Tender pasta and sausage floating in a richly flavoured cream sauce...Pasta alla Norcina . . . and if you really want to spluge - chaved black truffle (another delicacy from the area).
Some variations of this recipe use mushrooms along with the sausages as I have, while others include black truffles, although there are some who prefer to prepare this dish with simply sausages and cream. You can serve this sauce on just about any type of pasta although I prefer it on short dry pasta such as penne or rigatoni. I like to use some chopped, lightly toasted walnuts on my pasta to add a little texture which contrasts nicely with the creamy sauce, but you certainly could leave them out if you prefer. This recipe calls for mild sausages, but if desired you could also use spicy sausages although I would be careful if you do about adding any of the red pepper flakes.
This pasta is delicious although quite filling so the simple addition of a crisp green salad and crusty Italian bread would make it a complete meal.
Pasta alla Norcina
4 Mild Sausage Links
1 Small Onion, Finely Diced
8 Ounces Fresh Mushrooms, Cleaned And Coarsely Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Cup Dry White Wine
Salt & Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1/2 Cup Chopped Lightly Toasted Walnuts (Optional)
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Remove the sausage meat from the casings, and cook until no longer pink in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, breaking up the meat with a fork as it cooks.
Once the meat begins to brown, add the olive oil, onions and mushrooms and continue to cook until the onions and mushrooms are soft and just beginning to brown, than add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
Add white wine, and simmer uncovered a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half.
Add cream and season with salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste.
Continue to cook over medium low heat until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes at which time you can bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Keep the sauce warm and cook your pasta of choice until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and add the sauce to the pasta in the pot, adding just a little water if the sauce seems too thick.
Divide the pasta into individual bowls, sprinkling each bowl with some parsley, walnuts, and cheese.