Pasta alla Norcina
A silver lining related to the tragedy of recent earthquakes in Central Italy, though devastating, has been the food world’s response to said events, promoting historic local dishes and raising money for the affected towns. I was particularly impressed by the response to my #VirtualSagra post, and immensely enjoyed watching all the photos and stories as cooks around the world made Amatriciana for Amatrice.
Since then, two additional quakes have struck the same area, most notably near the Umbrian hamlet of Norcia. Uniquely located on a wide, flat plain at the base of the Apennine mountains — the central spine of Italy’s mainland and a hotbed of earthquake activity — the town’s position is based on proximity to historically important mountain pass.
Though easy access to the Sibillini National Park has helped build a deserved reputation for scenery and outdoor activities, Norcia is even more famous for its cuisine. A popular area for hunting, it produces some of the finest boar-based salumi (known internationally as norcineria) and truffles in all of Italy.
In keeping with our idea of promoting traditional dishes for the continued #VirtualSagra — such as Rigatoni alla Gricia, the basis for Amatriciana — here we highlight a recipe from Norcia that warrants wider acclaim. I discovered it in a cookbook called Umbrian Home Cooking by Wendy Aulsebrook, the chef and food educator at Antonelli San Marco winery in the Montefalco area. An Australian expat who’s lived in the region for years, Aulsebrook has collected a plethora of everyday recipes from local home cooks, highlighting the simplicity of Italian cooking. Paging through the book, Pasta all Norcina jumped out in particular, well, because of its ingredients. Pork sausage. Truffles. Cream. How could I go wrong?
I was particularly intrigued by a note at the bottom of the recipe, offering the substitution of truffle sauce for the actual tubers. Though rather easy to come by in Umbria, truffles are not exactly abundant in Pennsylvania. My local Wegmans, however, does carry at least two brands of that pesto-like truffle sauce, and I’m always looking for new ways to use it. (My preferred brand is La Rustichella.)
Unsurprisingly, The recipe delivers, producing a rich, hearty pasta perfect for the cooler weather. Obviously not light on calories, it is satisfying without sitting too heavily in the stomach.
In terms of wine pairings, the traditional truffle match in Umbria is the white wine Grechetto, but the addition of sausage here means this lighter quaff probably is not the best choice. Instead I went with a Montefalco Rosso, a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino that’s distinctly Umbrian and relatively versatile with food.
Ingredients for 4
Champignon Mushrooms (or another kind) 200g
Garlic clove 1
Black Truffle Spread 2-3 T
Olive Oil 2 T
Italian Pork Sausage, removed from skins 250g
Chili Flakes, pinch
Dry White Wine 100ml
Short extruded pasta, such as penne 320g
- Cook pasta to al dente per package directions
- Clean mushrooms and chop finely
- Cook mushrooms & garlic in pan with 1 T oil, over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, then remove from pan
- Cook sausage & chili in same pan with the remaining oil, until sausage is browned, about 10 mins
- Add wine and cook until it is evaporated
- Add cooked mushrooms
- Add cream and heat until the sauce just comes to a simmer
- Remove from heat. Stir in truffle paste.
- Immediately add cooked pasta to sauce, mixing in a bit of pasta water to desired consistency.
Thanks to Wendy Aulsebrook for the recipe. For those interested in a copy of her cookbook, you can email her via Wendy at Antonellisanmarco.it. And be sure to stop by the winery and kitchen when in Umbria.
Donate to Earthquake Relief
Here are some worthy suggestions for your consideration — every euro counts!
- Italian Red Cross
- La Stampa Foundation
- Save the Children
- Italian American Relief
- Displaced Pets Fund
For even more about Norcia’s rich culinary scene, check out Norcia: Gastronomic Delights and Tragic Earthquake on Paradise of Exiles.