Orecchiette with sausage meat ragu

thumb_IMG_2664_1024Orecchiette: little ear. These tiny pasta frisbees are traditionally served with vegetable sauces. In Puglia, where they originate, they like to eat them with turnip tops, but why eat turnip tops when you can fill up the little concave shapes of orecchiette pasta with tasty globules of pork?


The key to the ragu is to use Italian sausages, which are generally made with 100% meat. British sausages can contain up to 30% bread or starch filler, and the more bread a sausage contains, the more water it will also contain, resulting in a soggy mess of a sauce – exactly the kind of consistency you would expect if you added a dollop of soggy old bread. Italian sausages are easily found in Italian delicatessens and most often come in six different varieties; for this recipe plain or spicy are preferred.


Soffritto is a slow caramelization of finely diced onions, carrots and celery. In Span they use leeks instead of celery, which I prefer for this recipe.


Soffritto: 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 1 large leek, all finely chopped.

4 Italian sausages – skins removed

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tin tomatoes

1 large glass of white wine

1/3 glass milk

1 glass chicken stock or water

1 bay leaf

¼ grated nutmeg

Olive oil

Salt + pepper

Grated parmesan


Heat olive oil on a medium/high heat, add the soffritto and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly so it reduces in volume without burning. thumb_IMG_2655_1024Then bring the heat down and cook for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a gooey caramelized mash.thumb_IMG_2656_1024  Five minutes before the end, add the garlic. As soffritto is used as a base for many other sauces and soups, it’s not a bad idea to make large quantities and freeze.


Separately, heat a medium saucepan on a high heat with a little olive oil, add the sausage meat and some salt, and cook for 5-10 mins to brown. The meat will release fatty liquid that should be spooned off but some/all can be added back later. Add the milk, stir and cook for 2 mins, then add the wine and continue to cook on a high heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the soffritto, tomatoes, bay leaf, some water/stock, salt and pepper, and cook on a low heat for around an hour, adding a bit more stock/water if it gets too dry. At the end, grate in nutmeg, and cook for another couple of minutes.


Cook the pasta, drain, put back into the saucepan, and spoon over the sausage meat ragu until the pasta is coloured and covered. (Add some flecks of butter at this point depending on levels of decadence). Serve in large bowls with parmesan grated over the top.





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