The Twelve Posts of Christmas Pt. 9 – Pasta alla Norcina

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On The first full day of ” yoga pants vacation”, last Saturday, the Hubs and I were doing our best imitation of Slug 1 and Slug 2. We were channel surfing and came across America’s Test Kitchen on WGBH. We didn’t see the beginning but got sucked in nonetheless and watched Christopher Kimball and his intrepid chefs make Pasta alla Norcina. I think the beginning of the episode featured fresh made sausage, but we are NOT going there…once they assured us we could use fresh ground pork from your grocer’s meat case, I was on the case.

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The recipe starts out by having you brine the ground pork. WHOA…yes, you read that right.and here’s the strange part of the brine, it has baking soda in it! Ok, I’ll bite.

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And instead of browning crumbled sausage, you make a pork patty, brown the outside and THEN chop it up. It gets cooked in the cream, with some pasta water to thin it out.

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The recipe continues by browning mushrooms in the pork leavings, adding white wine and garlic and rosemary, putting the sausage back in and adding a truly obscene amount of cream ( hey, it’s the holidays…). The pork finishes cooking in the cream with some pasta water added as needed. Tossed with the orichiette pasta, some parsley and a little lemon juice.

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The reason for the brining is to keep the ground pork from drying out while cooking and the secret ingredient is definitely the nutmeg. This dish really showcases the cuisines of the north of Italy, closer to Austria and Switzerland than the sunny Mediterranean.


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