Last week, I went all the way back into the archives for Chewing the Fat. I was astonished to see that an Orecchiette recipe that I posted very early on in the life of the blog has had precisely 40 visits. That is about 1/10th of what an average post should be. The exact dish was a favorite of mine at a restaurant we still go to often. It was so good that for a very long time, I never ordered anything else when we went there. Sadly, there was a change of chef and the Orecchiette suffered immeasurably under his replacement. It’s still on the menu but it is no longer the sumptuous sausage-rich version with its green broccoli rabe accents. Now it’s too liquid-y and the sauce barely clings to the Orecchiette as it once did. So I gave up on it at the restaurant. But today, I started thinking about dinner and the fresh peas and sausage I had on hand and I decided to re-invent the dish as a celebration of Spring flavors. The results were delightful.
To refresh your memory, Orecchiette means ‘little ears’ in Italian. The pasta was first made in Puglia, which is the heel of the boot of Italy. An abundance of sunshine makes Puglia the leading producer of Olive Oil in all of Italy. It also makes crops plentiful. The shape of Orecchiette, with its ridged exterior and cup-like bowl, is perfect for capturing sauces and small vegetables like the peas in this recipe. It also of perfect to serve with sautés that begin, of course, with Olive Oil. Here, the sausage is broken down in the sauté pan. To me, the arrival of fresh English peas in the supermarket is another sign of our much-delayed Spring. When I was a very young boy, my grandfather and I would pick peas, which my grandmother inevitably cooked in whole cream adding mint leaves at the end and so I added mint to this recipe. And finally the lush creaminess of burrata cheese is added after the pasta and sauce are assembled, giving the dish a richness which is irresistible. Here is my recipe:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup dry White Wine
1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sausage stirring occasionally to break it up further, until cooked through and browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until the wine is completely reduced. Season the sausage with the Chile flakes.
2. Parboil the peas in boiling water for 90 seconds. Drain and then add them to the sausage mixture. Cook until just heated through. Add the grated Parmesan and stir to incorporate it.
3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sausage and peas, then add the cooked pasta.
Add the remaining pasta water if needed to thin the sauce; season with salt and black pepper.