Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pasta alla Norcina

Guys! So I totally made my own sausage! As in made my own sausage. I know, right? You're really super impressed. Either that or you have stopped reading entirely, declaring me out of touch. I promise it isn't as hard as it sounds. It's not the pipe-into-a-casing kind of sausage. It's the much more doable squash into a patty kind. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that, though this dish has made a bi-monthly appearance at our table for quite some time now, this was actually the first time I have ever prepared the recipe. My husband, my canned-soup-used-to-equal-dinner-in-his-mind husband, was the one to get us all addicted to this masterpiece. He was the one who found the recipe initially and then he's been the one to whip it up and serve it to guests on numerous occasions. Without fail, they look at me and swoon and applaud and I bask in it all until my conscience can no longer stand the unfair praise and then I blurt out "I can take no credit! Graham played chef tonight."

We love this recipe so much that I actually pulled out one of my kitchen boxes from our tower of belongings that are currently taking up residence in my in-law's garage. I needed to unearth my food processor. Needed to. So that I could prepare this recipe, of course. If you don't have a food processor, it is possible to still make this recipe, it just takes some fine chopping skills and I'm lazy and have three kids and don't really have a spare second I care to dedicate to mincing mushrooms and so I cheat. 

The recipe is a little more involved than simply boiling pasta water and heating sauce, but my mini sous chef and I still managed to put it all together in under an hour. This was another 9 AM make-ahead beauty that reheated nicely when the dinner hour finally rolled around. If you don't have orecchiette pasta (which I forgot to buy this time around), any small noodle with a nice curve to hold the meaty sauce will do. 

I wish this dish sported some amazing nutritional component but there really isn't much I can tote other than that it is 100% amazing and everyone is 100% happy when it's on the menu. I've often thought some sautéed kale would be a lovely addition but so far I haven't had the guts to mess with such a good thing. The dish is light and creamy and totally lovely paired with a glass of chilled white wine. It can be dressed up for company and it's also perfect for a casual weeknight dinner. Enjoy!
Pasta alla Norcina
(from Cooks Illustrated)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces ground pork
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed
7 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound orecchiette
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice

      Grease large dinner plate with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve 1⅛ teaspoons salt and baking soda 4 teaspoons water in medium bowl. Add pork and fold gently to combine; let stand for 10 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon garlic, 3/4 teaspoon rosemary, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon 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 patty. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses.

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 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 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer sausage to bowl and add cream; set aside.

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

While pasta 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 garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, and ½ 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 ¾ 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.

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

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posted by kelsie