An authentic Italian pasta sauce recipe made with sausage and ricotta cheese.
Looking for a pasta sauce that’s authentic and a bit different? Pasta alla Norcina is perfect for a taste of Umbria, a region in Central Italy.Jump to Recipe
This is definitely my favourite pasta dish during the winter. It’s rich and indulgent, while still taking less than an hour to make. About 30 minutes depending on how many pans you use.
This pasta dish comes from the small town of Norcia, in Umbria. It’s surrounded by mountains and valleys full of shepherds, lentils and is famous for their pork products.
Traditionally, this pasta dish was made with pork sausage and either ricotta or cream.
My mother in law maintains that historically ricotta makes more sense. Ricotta can be made with cow, goat and/or sheep milk. And in an area full of shepherds, the people in the town of Norcia would have had far more ricotta than cream.
And I think the ricotta gives the sauce a lightness that cream can’t.
Ingredients for Pasta alla Norcia
Sausage: One sausage for each person. I’ve never tried with a vegetarian sausage, or a turkey one, but I think either could work. Let me know if you try it.
Ricotta: One generous spoonful of ricotta for each person. You can use goat, sheep, cow or a mix. My preference is sheep ricotta.
Garlic: One piece of Garlic for 2 to 4 people. If it’s for more add another.
Onion: A thick slice of onion for 2 people, two slices for 4 people.
Short dry Pasta. We use 80 grams per person but a standard is 100 grams. My mother in law prefers farfalla pasta (butterfly), but it could be any short pasta. And yes, gluten free pasta works as well. I’ve done if for friends and family.
Pepper to taste
Coarse salt to add to the pasta water. Between an Umbrian sausage and the ricotta the pasta sauce usually doesn’t need anymore.
Olive oil for cooking sausage and onion & garlic
How to make Pasta alla Norcia
Get started by finely chopping up the piece of onion and splitting the garlic in half.
I’ll use a small cast iron frying pan for cooking up the sausage and a normal one for the onion and garlic.
But if you only want to use one frying pan first heat it up with a bit of olive oil. Remove the casings from the sausages and drop them in the pan.
On a medium to high heat, using a wooden spoon or something similar break up the sausages so that they break up into crumbs, like ground meat, and fully cooked.
Remove the meat from the excess fat and put in a bowl for later.
Remove all the fat and oil from the frying pan and add some fresh olive oil. Warm it up over a medium heat and add the onion. Let it cook enough to soften but not brown, and add the garlic. Fry the onion and garlic together, trying not to let it brown too much.
Add the sausage meat to the onion and garlic and turn off the heat.
Boil the water for the pasta. Once it reaches a boil add the coarse salt. Begin with a tbsp for every 150 grams of pasta. Fine salt is a different measurement, perhaps 1/2 a tablespoon, but be careful.
While the pasta is cooking, 10-15 minutes depending on the shape, turn the heat back on the onion and sausage mixture, but at a low temperature.
When it starts to dry out use a ladle and add some pasta water to the mix. Not a lot, enough to keep it from browning more.
A few minutes before the pasta is ready, turn off the pan with the sauce and add the ricotta.
Begin with a generous tablespoon per person, but add more if you like. It will probably feel dry, so continue to add some more of the water that the pasta is cooking in.
Dump out the pasta and add it to the sauce. Mix well and serve!
If you want to add chili oil that’s fine and/or cracked pepper.
Pasta alla Norcina
- 4 sausages
- 4 tbsp goat, sheep or cow ricotta
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 slices onion finely chopped
- pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 360 grams short pasta farfalle(butterflies) is my favourite
- Begin by putting a pot of water on high heat.
- While waiting for the water to boil start the sauce.
- Start by finely chopping up the pieces of onion and splitting the garlic in half.
- On medium add a tbsp of olive oil to a pan and soften the onion and add the garlic. Turn off heat before it browns.
- In another pan, a cast iron pan if you have it, add the other tablespoon of olive oil.
- Remove the casing of the sausages and add to the hot pan.
- Break up the sausages with a wooden spoon until crumbling and fully cooked. Pour off additional fat and add the meat to the onion and garlic.
- When the water is at a boil add a tablespoon of coarse salt and the short pasta.
- While the pasta cooks have the sauce cooking on a low heat. Add some pasta water to the mix so that it doesn't become dry or brown.
- 3 or 4 minutes before the pasta is done add the ricotta to the pasta sauce. Add more water that the pasta is cooking in if it's dry.
- When the pasta is cooked, remove from the boiling water and add to the pasta sauce.
- Add any chili oil or pepper wanted
Looking for other Authentic Italian Pasta Sauce Recipes?
What about this recipe: a simple soup made with chickpeas? It’s become my comfort food.
And please let me know if you have any questions on the recipe, either in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org