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Pasta Norcina (Creamy Pasta With Sausage)

Norcina Pasta on white platter with grated parmesan in background.
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Pasta Norcina is a soulful combination of sausage, mushrooms, white wine, pecorino cheese, black pepper, a hint of nutmeg and baby spinach in a rich, aromatic, cream sauce. It’s about as cozy and comforting as pasta gets and can be ready in about 35 minutes. Read on for more!

Norcina Pasta on white platter with grated parmesan in background.

Hearty Pasta alla Norcina is rather simple and relatively quick to make, but has the spirit of a rich, slowly-cooked dish, making it a great option for both weeknight and weekends or anytime that you’re craving something a bit decadent.

Crumbled sausage is browned then combined with sautéed mushrooms, as in Pasta alla Boscaiola. But, whereas red wine, tomatoes and parmigiano cheese are used in a more mushroom-forward boscaiola sauce, white wine, cream, and pecorino are at the core of a classic Norcina sauce with the additional warming notes of black pepper and nutmeg.

For a few other weeknight pasta dish ideas, check out Pasta with Mushrooms, Peas and Prosciutto, Pasta with Broccoli, Vodka Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes, Pasta with Tuna Sauce, Pasta Sorrentina with Fresh Mozzarella and Shrimp Scampi Pasta.

What Inspired This Recipe

Norcia, a town located in Umbria, right in the center of Italy, is a town famous for its pork and pork products with a rich tradition of sausage- and salumi-making. In fact, butcher shops all over the country that specialize in preparing, curing and selling fresh and cured pork products are called “norcinerie” after the famous pork-focused town. They are must visit stops on any trip to Italy, in my humble opinion!

Norcia is also an area with lots of black truffle hunting every autumn.

Norcina Pasta on pasta plate with grated cheese and fork.

Pasta alla Norcina is the signature dish of this region that combines its two local specialties. Classically, it’s a rich and creamy sauce with juicy, local white wine, nutmeg and garlic-infused sausage that’s finished with an abundant shaving of black truffles when in season in fall and early winter.

Since local Norcia-style sausage and black truffles are not exactly pantry staples here, I’ve adapted the classic recipe a bit, while aiming to hold to its core spirit. Italian sausage and mushrooms are used in their place in this recipe with a pinch of fresh nutmeg as an optional finish. I’ve also added fresh baby spinach in a very unique, non-traditional move. I love its color and flavor and the added freshness to the finished dish.

Why You’ll Love This Dish

Pasta Norcina is absolutely cozy and comforting and especially perfect during the dark, cold days of winter when all you want to do is cuddle up with a bowl of creamy pasta. This dish is unapologetically rich, simple and relatively quick to make–all very appealing qualities!

I love its hearty and savory punch and its interesting textures, not to mention the amazing mouthwatering aroma that will be wafting through your kitchen and have you salivating as it simmers away. Hope you and your family give this Norcina Pasta a try. Mangia bene!

Norcina Pasta on white platter with grated parmesan in background.

Ingredients for Pasta Norcina

To make creamy pasta with sausage and mushrooms, we’ll be using:

  • Italian sausage: The original version of this recipe is made with crumbled sausage from the town of Norcia, which is a mild, garlic and white wine-infused pork sausage. I used a 50/50 blend of hot and sweet Italian pork sausage in this dish. If you can find Italian sausage without fennel, use that. Italian chicken or turkey sausage can also be used.
  • Mushrooms: You’ll often find the original version of this recipe with either black truffles or mushrooms. While I love truffles, I am not fortunate to have access to them as I’d like. If you do, by all means shave some black truffles over the finished dish. Otherwise, white or cremini mushrooms will do just fine and add lots of earthiness, flavor and texture.
  • Spinach: While not traditional, I included tender baby spinach in this recipe for the added nutrition, fiber, taste and color. If you prefer to stick to a more authentic version of the recipe, you can leave it out.
  • Heavy Cream: The base for the oh-so-creamy and delicious sauce, heavy cream is one of the signature ingredients in this recipe.
  • Dry white wine: Contributes to the earthiness and rounds out the other flavors. A dry white wine, such as pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay should be used. Do not use a sweet wine like a Moscato or Riesling.
  • Butter: Used to add richness and silkiness to the finished pasta. If you prefer to not use butter, you can substitute it with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Pecorino Cheese: The incredible flavor and sharpness of sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano cheese is just what the sauce needs to round out its flavors. But, both Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano would also work here.
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper and Nutmeg: These spices give a hint of warm spice to the finished dish. Nutmeg is in the traditional version of this recipe, so I’ve included here as an option. Go easy on it, though! Nutmeg is a strong spice and a little goes a long way.
  • Pasta: I used a short pasta here (mezzi rigatoni), and this recipe was really designed for a short, tubular pasta that can hold up to the heavy, creamy, sausage sauce. A few other options are ziti, penne rigate and paccheri.

Ingredients for pasta norcina.

How to Make Pasta Norcina, with Pro-Tips!

Here are the main steps for how to make this hearty rigatoni alla norcina recipe:

  • Prep and gather all ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    • PRO TIP: Use a large pot with 5 to 6 quarts water for 1 pound of pasta. Bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. Use 1½-2 Tbsp salt.

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage in olive oil, using a wooden spoon to break it into bite-sized pieces. Once the sausage has browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Prepped ingredients for pasta alla norcina.
Italian sausage browning in pan with wooden spoon on pan.
Browned Italian sausage in pan.
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the garlic to soften and brown lightly. Take care not to burn the garlic!
    • PRO TIP:  Don’t walk too far away during this step! Garlic can burn very quickly; so, close monitoring is important.

  • Then, add the mushrooms, salt and pepper to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Spread the mushrooms out and let the mushrooms cook until almost all liquid that they release has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
    • PRO TIP:  Use a pan or Dutch oven large enough to be able to spread out the mushroom in a single layer. If the pan is overcrowded, then the mushrooms will steam instead of brown.
Cooking garlic in oil in pan.
Cooking chopped mushrooms in pan.
  • Pour the wine into the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes or until most of the alcohol taste has cooked off.
Pouring wine into pan with mushrooms.
Simmering wine to reduce.

  • Add heavy cream and reserved sausage to the mushrooms over medium heat. Cook until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Then, turn off the heat.

  • Meanwhile, add pasta to the salted boiling water, stirring frequently. Turn the sauce back on to medium-low after the pasta has been cooking for about 5 minutes. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.

Adding sausage to sauce with wooden spoon.
Cooking pasta in boiling water with sauce in background.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta and the baby spinach to the pan and toss well, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the wonderful flavors of the sauce and the spinach to wilt. Add pasta cooking water for additional moisture, about ½ cup at a time.
    • PRO-TIP: The pasta water is key! Add it to the sauce along with the pasta for the additional moisture needed to finish cooking the pasta.

  • Once the pasta is al dente, remove the pan from the heat. Then gently stir in the butter, pecorino cheese, a small pinch of nutmeg (if including) and a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper until well-combined.
    • PRO-TIP: The butter is “mounted” on the finished pasta at the end for additional richness and silkiness. If you prefer, you can use butter in place of olive oil at the start of the recipe as well.
Adding spinach and cooked pasta to sauce.
Norcina pasta in pan about to be stirred together.
Grated parmesan cheese and butter added to pasta alla norcina.

  • Transfer this Italian sausage pasta to a serving platter, sprinkle with a bit more grated cheese and serve immediately. Buon Appetito!
Plating norcina pasta.

Try serving this creamy sausage ragu pasta with Sautéed Broccoli Rabe or Zucchini A Scapece–both are delicious pairings! And, don’t forget to serve it with some homemade Italian chili oil for a final kick of heat–it’s worth it!

More Simple Pasta Recipes

Here are few other pasta recipes that are easy and quick to assemble:

Norcina Pasta on white platter with grated parmesan in background.

Check out my answer to “How Much Salt Should You Add to Pasta Water?” here, as featured in Appetito’s online Italian Food and Drink Magazine. (Hint: I also mention it in the recipe below.)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you pronounce Norcina?

Norcina is pronounced nor-chee-nuh.

What is the best way to clean mushrooms?

Since mushrooms are very porous and absorb liquid very easily, the best way to clean mushrooms is by using a dry paper towel to wipe away any dirt.

How long do leftovers last and how can I reheat pasta norcina?

Leftover norcina pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat it, covered, in a small skillet over medium low heat with a little bit of water until heated through.

Close up of norcina pasta on fork.

TOP TIPS FOR PASTA NORCINA

  • Put a pot with water on to boil as you start to prep. This recipe actually comes together pretty quickly, and you may be ready to cook the pasta by the time the water boils (depending on the size of your pot). If needed, you can always switch the pot burner to low until you’re ready to throw the pasta in. And then, when you’re ready, turn it back to high and it will boil almost instantly.
  • The pasta water is key! Add it to the sauce along with the pasta for the additional moisture needed to finish cooking the pasta.
  • Make the recipe your own: If you dislike mushrooms, leave them out. If you want to stick to the original recipe, leave the spinach out. If you have truffles, by all means shave those babies over this dish! And, if you prefer parmesan cheese instead of pecorino, go for it!
Norcina Pasta on white platter.

More Great Recipes to Try

I hope that you are enjoying my Italian food blog Mangia With Michele and all of my Italian recipes and Italian-American recipes!

If you’ve tried Pasta Norcina or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!

You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM to see more delicious food and what might be going on behind the scenes!

Norcina Pasta on white platter with grated parmesan in background.

Pasta Norcina (Creamy Pasta With Sausage)

Michele
Pasta Norcina is a soulful combination of sausage, mushrooms, white wine, pecorino cheese, black pepper, a hint of nutmeg and baby spinach in a rich, aromatic, cream sauce. It’s about as cozy and comforting as pasta gets and can be ready in about 35 minutes.
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • pounds cremini, white or portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • cups dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio
  • 1⅓ cups heavy cream
  • 1 pound pasta + salt for pasta water (See NOTE below.)
  • 5 ounces baby spinach (about 1 really big handful)
  • 2-4 Tbsp butter, cubed
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese + more for top
  • Pinch grated nutmeg (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prep and gather all ingredients according to specifications above. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    (Please see the section above in the blog post for Step-By-Step instructions with photos.)
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage in olive oil, using a wooden spoon to break it into bite-sized pieces. Once the sausage has browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
    1 pound Italian sausage,, 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the garlic to soften and brown lightly. Take care not to burn the garlic!
    2 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • Then, add the mushrooms, salt and pepper to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Spread the mushrooms out and let the mushrooms cook until almost all liquid that they release has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
    1¼ pounds cremini, white or portobello mushrooms,, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • Pour the wine into the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes or until most of the alcohol taste has cooked off.
    1¼ cups dry white wine
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add heavy cream and reserved sausage to the mushrooms. Cook until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Then, turn off the heat.
    1⅓ cups heavy cream
  • Meanwhile, once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta, stirring frequently. Turn the sauce back on to medium-low after the pasta has been cooking for about 5 minutes.
    1 pound pasta
  • Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta and the baby spinach to the pan and toss well, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the wonderful flavors of the sauce and the spinach to wilt. Add pasta water for additional moisture, about ½ cup at a time.
    5 ounces baby spinach
  • Once the pasta is al dente, remove the pan from the heat. Then gently stir in the butter, pecorino cheese, a small pinch of nutmeg (if including) and a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper until well-combined.
    Pinch grated nutmeg, 2-4 Tbsp butter,, ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, Freshly ground black pepper
  • Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with a bit more grated cheese and serve immediately. Buon Appetito!

Notes

  • Use a pan or Dutch oven large enough to be able to spread out the mushrooms in a single layer. If the pan is overcrowded, then the mushrooms will steam instead of brown.
  • Use a large pot with 5 to 6 quarts water for 1 pound of pasta. Bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. Use 1½-2 Tbsp salt.
  • The pasta water is key! Add it to the sauce along with the pasta for the additional moisture needed to finish cooking the pasta.
  • The butter is “mounted” on the finished pasta at the end for additional richness and silkiness. If you prefer, you can use butter in place of olive oil at the start of the recipe as well.
  • If you decide to include a pinch of nutmeg, make it a small pinch. Nutmeg is a strong spice and a little goes a long way.
  • If you are so inclined and fortunate to have some black truffles on hand, do shave some over this dish. Truffles are very typical of the Umbrian region in Italy that inspired this recipe. Or, a very high quality truffle oil from a trusted source can be drizzled over the pasta.
  • I used a short pasta here (mezzi rigatoni), and this recipe was really designed for a short, tubular pasta that can hold up to the heavy, creamy, sausage sauce. A few other options are ziti, penne rigate and paccheri.
  • Leftover norcina pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat it, covered, in a small skillet over medium low heat with a little bit of water until heated through.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
If you try this recipe, please share a photo on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK and tag it @MangiaWithMichele and #MangiaWithMichele. I’d love to see it!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

9 thoughts on “Pasta Norcina (Creamy Pasta With Sausage)

  1. 5 stars
    This was so good! The house smelled like garlic and wine. Came together easily in one pan.

  2. 5 stars
    One of the best pasta dishes I’ve tried in a long time. I cook Italian food very often and I’m fussy about recipes. The sauce made by the mushrooms and sausage with just a small amount of cream is delicious…the cream doesn’t overpower the dish and the flavors all blend together perfectly. A must try dish. And the Mezza Rigatoni are the perfect noodles to make the dish even better!!

  3. 5 stars
    So delicious and easy to make! The butter at the end gave it such a velvety quality. It’s keeper for me!

  4. 5 stars
    Michele’s recipes are easy to prepare generally using ingredients that are on hand or readily available. Pasta alla Norcina is no exception. I was looking to use fresh vegetables and sausage that needed to be used before leaving town but finding a recipe that my very picky Italian husband would eat was a challenge. The man who refuses to try anything with cream loved this dish. Of course I didn’t mention the cream when convincing him that it was prepared using all ingredients that he is accustomed to. He actually suggested that I prepare it again soon. Thanks, Michele.

    1. I’m so glad you both enjoyed the recipe, Diane! Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    Delicious!!! And so easy to make!! Thank you for the notes, that was very helpful in making this.

  6. 5 stars
    A delicious and easy recipe that I made for my family. I expected leftovers but everyone went back for seconds. The only change I made was to reduce the amount of cream, and I used 3/4 lb of pasta. My 15 y/o granddaughter said it is her favorite pasta dish.

  7. 5 stars
    Simply amazing! Taste, aroma, ease of making! I followed the recipe exactly and the result was sheer perfection!!

  8. 5 stars
    Great recipe and easy to follow. I enjoyed the addition of spinach. Will definitely make it again.

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