Pasta alla Norcina

March 31, 2011 / Food & Wine

(related to this note…)

Norcia, in the mountains of southeastern Umbria, is noted for its salsicce (sausages), prosciutto, capocollo, salame, and other pork derivatives. In the 9th century, the Lombards then occupying the region learned to preserve pig meat with salt; hence, a pig butcher anywhere in Italy is called a norcino.

Ingredients: (for 4)
1 lb penne or rigatoni pasta (Ed.’s note – In the image below, orecchiette are used. “The horror, the horror,” I know… sometimes though, you just have to use the pasta that you have sitting round.)
3-4 Umbrian (and ONLY Umbrian!) sausages – (and if not attainable, use about 1/2 lb ground pork meat, adding one finely-chopped garlic clove, salt and pepper to it for taste. No fennel seeds or red pepper in Umbrian salsicce.)
1 white onion
white wine (about 1 cup or so)
olive oil
small hot red pepper
1 – 1-1/2 c. cream
Parmigiano cheese, freshly-grated (or use pecorino, sheep’s milk cheese… very Umbrian!)

Finely slice the white onion. Cover bottom of saucepan in olive oil and sauté onion until golden (do NOT burn – and if you do, start over, or entire pasta will taste like burnt onion…!). Take sausage meat out of casing and crumble into onion/olive oil mixture. Add chili pepper. Simmer a couple of minutes until sausage (or pork meat) starts to brown. Add white wine, covering the meat. Simmer uncovered a few minutes (wine will start to evaporate). Add cream and simmer briefly. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Stir into pasta which you have cooked and drained (always save a bit of the pasta water when draining pasta: it can be used to dilute your sauce if needed). Pasta mixture should be creamy – if too dry, add a bit of olive oil (and next time, use more cream – or white wine – when preparing).
Add the Parmigiano (or pecorino) on top before serving.

Buon appetito!

Image courtesy of Gary Wong, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license) – Thank you, Gary!
Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

10 Responses to “Pasta alla Norcina”

  1. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    Scusa ma per favore non più di orrore orecchiette è superbo

    It may even add to the dish and you are right, what you have you use

  2. Mandy Hauschild

    Orecchiette is one of my favorite pastas! :) My Italian neighbors tried to teach me how to make it when I was visiting back in 2001 – but I haven’t tried it on my own! Nothing better than homemade orecchiette!

  3. Katherine Rinne

    Hi – I love salsicce di Norcia, but please include the instruction that pork MUST be fully cooked. In most recipes that is 20 minutes.

  4. Angela Melczer

    This sounds divine! It’s a toss up for me between Parmegiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano. Both are so good! I have had Annie’s cooking and look forward to trying this one. The challenge will be finding Umbrian sausage someplace! Ciao, ciao!

  5. Francesco Paolo

    Orecchiette is a HORROR! You have just insulted 100,000 New York Baresi!!!!

  6. hebegb

    I love orecchiette.. my sarcastic comment about “the horror” is directed towards those who might hold that certain sauces must only go with certain pastas!

  7. Gian Banchero

    Hello Anne;
    Thank you for the great recipe, just delicious! I used ground pork, etc. as you had suggested to approximate the Umbrian sausages (even though there are sweet Italian salsiccia in the fridge). Orecchiette proved brilliant with this sauce, a wonderful recipe that I will soon use over mushroom (champagnon with porcino) ravioli. I would suggest using only Parmigiano in that the pecorino competes somewhat with the sauce whereas the Parmigiano interestingly becomes a flavor enhancer.

  8. Barbara MacLellan

    I made orecchiette the other day specifically to go with this dish. I find that the shape compliments the shape of the mushrooms and has a marvelous feel in the mouth when surrounded by the creamy pork sauce. It couldn’t be easier to make and is a very forgiving shape. Easy to make with a friend while chatting. Additionally there is no dried pasta on the face of this earth that can beat the beauty of a fresh pasta, cooked for just a few minutes until the inside of the “ear” is tender and the outside lobe is perfectly al dente.


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