Umbria is one of our favorite regions of Italy. Often overshadowed by neighboring Tuscany, Umbria is earthier and less pretentious, but still beautiful and home to an amazing gastronomy of olive oil, wine, wild boar and and truffles. Norcia, a village in the Umbria countryside known for its sausage and cured meats made from pork and wild boar, is the culinary heart of Umbria.
Norcia is so renowned that an entire vocabulary has emerged reflecting its culinary passions. Butchers who specialize in working with pork are called norcini and the cured meats they produce are referred to as norceria. Unsurprisingly then, la norcina is a rich pasta made with mushrooms, sausage, cream, and if available, a bit of freshly shaved truffle.
Our friend Filippo, a chef, makes an amazing pasta alla norcina which for years has been the inspiration for our own. For this version, we happened to have pioppini mushrooms on hand, but you can use any mushroom you prefer.
- 1 package rigatoni
- 250 grams Italian sausage, or 2-3 sausages with the casing removed
- 250 grams mushrooms of your choice
- 500 ml panna da cucina, or substitute heavy whipping cream
- Olive oil
- Two cloves of garlic
- Dry white wine
- Black pepper
- Optional: freshly grated black truffle
- Wash the mushrooms, chop them into into small pieces, and set them aside.
- Cut two cloves of garlic in half.
- In a large skillet, slowly sautè the garlic in olive oil until it is fragrant.
- Add the sausage and simmer on low to medium heat until brown and crumbled, using a spatula to break up the meat.
- Add the mushrooms to the skillet, stir them into the sausage, salt to taste and cover. Let them cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are nearly tender.
- Increase the heat and when the mixture is sizzling, add a dash of white wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
- Add the cream, stir together, let cook for a few more minutes and then remove from heat.
- Bring a large pot of water on the stove to rolling boil. When ready, toss a heaping handful of salt in the water and add the rigatoni.
- Set a timer for three minutes short of the suggested al dente cooking time specified on the package.
- When the rigatoni are three minutes shy of al dente, strain them, preserving some of the cooking water.
- Add the rigatoni directly to the skillet with the sausage and mushrooms. Stir over medium heat for another couple of minutes until the pasta is cooked to al dente and coated in sauce, adding a ladle or two of the cooking water if needed.
- Serve immediately, with a grating of fresh black truffle on top if you are so lucky to have some.
Rather than use a traditional strainer, we prefer a handheld wire mesh skimmer to scoop the pasta out of its cooking water and into the skillet. This is faster and we don't have to worry about preserving the cooking water before pouring it down the sink.