Live from Italy: Pasta alla Norcina (and a tale of Norcia)

by Ashley in Italy /
Ashley in Italy's picture
Jan 22, 2014 / 0 comments







Baked Vegetables with Breadcrumbs (Verdure Gratinate)

Pasta alla Norcina (Pasta with Cream & Sausage)

Caffè Moretta (Coffee with Liquor, Sugar & Lemon Rind from Fano)


Caffe Moretta - Italian Coffee with Liquor, Sugar & Lemon Rind from Fano



Pasta alla Norcina ~ Rich & Creamy

For a richly flavored creamy sauce with sausage - it can't get much easier than this! Plus it pairs perfectly with store bought dry pasta (we recommend rigatoni or penne). If you have access to fresh truffles, you can shave it over the top to transform this rustic dish to something exquisite!


#recipe for Pasta alla Norcina - comfort food!


Most of you know this sauce as Norcina - but at our house we affectionately call it pasta Rossana in honor of our dear friend who first taught Jason this simple winter sauce! We'd arrive for dinner with a hungry look in our eyes begging for 'pasta Rossana' and its meaty creamy goodness. She would laugh & say "Dear it is not MY sauce but the sauce of Norcia." We nod understandingly, smile back, & ask for another serving!


Pasta alla Norcina
Pasta with Sausages & Cream
Serves 4

6 oz. / 150gr of sausage meat
1 small carrot, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, peeled
olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 cup/ 125ml cream (panna per la cucina)
small handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 lb./ 500gr short pasta of your choice (penne or rigatoni work wonderful) you can also use gnocchi, orecchietti or strozzapreti

(Optional: Shave truffles atop when in season)

Get a big pot of water going for your pasta.

With a few glugs of olive oil in a pan, throw in the garlic clove whole and gently, on very low heat sweat garlic until lightly brown. Then discard garlic.

Add chopped carrot and sweat over low heat for a minute or two.

Add in the sausage meat. Raise the heat slightly and with the back of a fork break the meat up as it cooks.

Add in the cream, lower the heat and let it reduce by half. Give it a taste and check the seasonings adjusting by adding salt and pepper if needed.

Shut off the heat until your pasta is ready. Then on low heat, bring your sauce back up.

Drain the cooked pasta from the water and place directly into pan. (Do NOT discard your pasta water).

Over low heat, mix the pasta together with the sauce and a handful of cheese, adding a little pasta water if needed. Give it a taste, adjust the seasonings if needed.

Serve immediately.

(If you are able to find truffles, shave over the top just before serving or at the table.)



And a Tale...

Norcia: A Land of Pork, Butchers, Boar, and Truffles

We recently spent a night in Norcia (Umbria) a land famous for its pork, butchers, wild boar, and truffles. (Not so different from our neck of the woods in Le Marche.) Just over two hours from Rome (and about two hour from our farmhouse) time seems to stand still, it is the perfect place to unwind and loosen your belt because you are about to eat pork for every meal!


Visiting Norcia, Umbria, Italy


Norcia, Italy


We stayed at the gorgeous Palazzo Seneca in the center of town. (The family seems to own a bit of everything in Norcia.) It was nice being the guest instead of the host! The hotel was luxurious yet comfortable with a cozy fireplace & chess room, library, spa and restaurant. The breakfast was irresistible with hand sliced prosciutto di norcia and a half dozen homemade cakes and pastries (Jason kept sending me back for more)!


Breakfast at Palazzo Seneca, Norcia, Umbria, Italy

Breakfast at Palazzo Seneca    

Palazzo Seneca, Norcia, Umbria, Italy

Palazzo Seneca


Norcia, Umbria, Italy



After a stroll through town to get our bearings (and making reservations for dinner), we decided it was time to eat! We hopped in the car and headed to scenic Scheggino (a tini tiny Venice) for a lunch of grilled trout that was out of this world and worth the drive. (We knew that dinner would be pork-heavy and we had already stopped at a few butchers to sample the goods, so fish sounded good for lunch!) In a restaurant perched on the river, we ordered the mixed antipasti and was blow away by the black truffle crostini (better than either of us had ever had.) The trout was moist and flavorful sourced locally and the veggies done up perfectly. (The total bill for two including antipasti, wine, secondo & veggies = 40,00 Euro)


Scheggino, Italy

Scheggino & the Italian flags


Scheggino - a mini-Venice, Italy

mini Venice - Scheggino


When you're strolling around Norcia, signs for butchers and stuffed boar heads are everywhere. The prosciutto from this village is famous - Prosciutto di Norcia is more sweet than salty and melts in your mouth when cut by hand paper thin.  Even if you don't speak a lick of Italian, you will know at least one word before you leave this town, "norcino" a pork butcher. Visit Ansuini, the oldest butchery family in the area. But make sure you visit the shop outside of town in the 'zona industriale' the other shop in the center of town (with the same name) bought them out years ago and it's not the same quality, price or family history. (I had read so many articles about the area, where to eat, what to do & of course I came across this name "Ansuini" a dozen times, all with the photo of the original shop in the center of town. But it wasn't until we meet with the owners did we discover the real story and how they were bought out.)


Ansuini Impostors

in the center of town - beware of imposters


The real Ansuini pork butcher shop

the real deal - Ansuini Family!


Before dinner, if you get a chance, visit the crypt in San Benedetto to hear the monks chanting. It is spine tingling hearing their haunting voices echo off the cold stone. (I grew up Catholic so it could be just the rush of memories from weekly mass growing up.) As the snow began to lightly fall, we made our way across the empty cobblestone streets and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals I've eaten!


Directly across the street from the hotel is the best restaurant in the area (and one of the oldest), Granaro del Monte. We settled in for a full meal. (Jason jokes that I ordered the entire right side of the menu - so what if I did!)  The area is famous not only for its pork products but lentils as well (from Castelluccio in the Sibillini Mountains), so I started with the lentil soup.


Then came my second primo (most people only order 1), the fluffiest, melt in your mouth, truffle-topped gnocchi. I died and went to fatty heaven! Red potatoes are used for their creamy consistency. I was hooked  - this dinner was amazing! After I licked my plate clean, the secondo arrived - pork tenderloin with truffles, pecorino, potatoes & tomatoes, dry fried chicory and a poached pear in red wine. (Basically all five flavors balanced on one plate). Jason didn't order nearly as well as I did, opting for fish which ended up to be a vehicle for prosciutto & cheese. (Lesson learned: never order fish in a pork town). In fact, I ordered so well they brought me out a commemorative plate to take home! We waddled across the street stuffed like a ...pig and fell into bed as the snow continued to blanket the hills.


Twenty-four hours in Norcia was the perfect weekend getaway! (We'll visit again the spring when the lentil fields are in bloom in Castelluccio...)


For more on where to stay and eat in Norcia, please see:




Ashley Bartner is the Living in Italy Editor for Wandering Educators. You can find her recipes, photos, and more at:



All photos courtesy and copyright Ashley Bartner