Pasta Pugliese: Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach

Pugliese Pasta, aka Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach

Pugliese Pasta, aka Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach

Every region in Italy has traditional dishes and products, like the Roman specialties Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe and the famous foods of Emilia-Romagna: Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto.

Likewise, every pasta shape has an Italian region of origin, and when visiting that region, you will most likely see it in abundance.

Orecchiette is no exception, and dates back to 12th century Puglia. One story has it that a baker used his recipe as the dowry for his daughter, and that led to its popularization in the 1500s. Still popular today, walking the streets of Bari, you can see the town’s nonas drying their fresh home-made orecchiette on tables outside. What are they making? Pasta Pugliese—something very similar to this Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach!

Nonas making homemade orecchiette pasta in Bari

Nonas making homemade orecchiette pasta in Bari

Pasta Pugliese

Orecchiette Pugliese is definitely a must-try Puglia food! Puglia also produces excellent extra virgin olive oil which is the base of many orecchiette pasta recipes, including my Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach. Orecchiette means “little ear,” although I think it looks more like a small cup or a scoop, and because of its unique shape, there’s really not a similar substitute.

Orecchiette’s “scoop” (sorry, I cannot call it an ear!) perfectly holds small vegetables, chunky sauces, and tiny meatballs. The most traditional Puglian orecchiette pasta recipe is a simple sauté of turnip greens: Orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa. My Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach was inspired by this recipe and the idea of tiny meatballs. Taking the sausage out of the casing and breaking it apart, resembles tiny meatballs!

In the US, you occasionally find Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli on Italian restaurant menus, however, I think the spinach more closely resembles the traditional orecchiette Pugliese recipe, and it’s easier and quicker to cook! But, if you prefer broccoli to spinach, feel free to make the substitution.

One of the other bonuses of this Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach recipe is that it’s a quick one-pan and one pot meal. I experience travel through food, and I love bringing those memories and flavors back to life when I cook at home. With this recipe I can go to Bari on a weeknight for Puglia pasta!

Ingredients for Pasta Pugliese aka Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach

Ingredients for Pasta Pugliese aka Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach

Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach Recipe

Servings: 6

Ingredients

1 pound cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds Italian sausages, (turkey or pork) casings removed
¾ cup red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
½ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound baby spinach
12 ounces orecchiette pasta
1 tablespoon basil, chopped or chiffonade
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated

Cooking sausages for Pugliese Pasta

Cooking sausages for Pugliese Pasta

Instructions

1. Put your orecchiete pasta water on the burner when you begin.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and put them in a small bowl. Add salt, toss, and set aside.
3. Keeping the sausage shape, brown the sausages on both sides in a large skillet on medium high.
4. Using a spatula, break apart the sausages into small bite-sized pieces, and continue to cook, stirring intermittently.
5. When the sausage is about ¾ cooked, add the onion, garlic, pepper, and olive oil.
6. Sauté for 2 minutes.
7. If water is the pasta water is boiling, add the orecchiette, and then add the spinach. If it is not, wait to add the spinach.

Making Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach, or Puglia Pasta.

Making Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach, or Puglia Pasta.

8. When spinach is mostly cooked, add the tomatoes, including the juice that is in the bowl.
9. Add basil, and stir until all of the sausage is cooked through.
10. Drain the pasta and toss all together with the sausage, tomato, and spinach mixture.
11. Top with Parmesan and at plating.

Tips for Making Orecchiette with Sausage and Spinach

1. If it is difficult to stir the spinach, use a lid and cover it for 2-3 minutes.
2. If you like spice, hot Italian sausages are delicious in this!
3. If you want to order orecchiette online as I do, click De Cecco or Barilla. Both are very good and reasonably priced Italian pastas.

More healthy pasta recipes:
Carbonara Breakfast Pasta
Skinny Shrimp Scampi
Healthy Turkey Bolognese

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