DC – Orecchiette with Leeks and Sausage

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks’ July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.

I’ve wanted to buy a pasta roller – one of those that you clip to the edge of your counter top – for ages, but I never got around to it.  So rather than spending all afternoon rolling out paper thin sheets of pasta by hand with my grandmother’s old rolling pin, I decided to do the next most logical thing. Spend all afternoon pressing out little “ears,” or orecchiette, pasta…by hand. I’m smart like that.

Orecchiette is possibly my favorite pasta shape.  It’s perfectly formed to hold sauce, vegetables, cheese, whatever topping you so wish.  The texture and taste is different from other types of pasta too. Tradiational orecchiette isn’t an egg noodle – it’s made with semolina flour, water and salt.  Perfect for drying and keeping in little glass canisters on the counter top.  Since there aren’t any eggs in the dough, they can last at room temperature (if properly dried) for a month or so.  That is if you can resist eating them all in the first day. I certainly didn’t.

Orecchiette with Leeks and Sausage

Adapted from this video

1 cup semolina flour
pinch of salt
1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup sliced and halved smoked turkey sausage (I used Hillshire Farms’ Smoked Turkey Sausage)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, to top

In a bowl combine the semolina flour with the salt.  Create a well in the center and slowly mix in the water, a little at a time.  I actually didn’t use the full cup of water – only around 3/4 cups.

When combined, place the dough on a well floured surface and knead for several minutes, allowing the glutens to develop.  This will give the dough a smooth, springy texture.

Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

On a well floured surface (feel free to use the same spot that you kneaded the dough on – I did) cut off a piece of dough and roll it into a thin rope approximately 1/2 inch wide.  Using a sharp knife, cut little disks about 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick.  Dip your thumb in flour so the dough won’t stick to it and press it into each of the disks, creating a little bowl. You are going to want to make them fairly thin.  The traditional way to form orecchiette is with a knife, but I’ve not yet mastered that technique.  Feel free to cheat, as I did.  Continue until all the pasta is formed.

Let the pasta dry approximately 1-2 hours.  Boil in well salted water until they rise to the top and float.

Meanwhile, saute the sausage until it is cooked (if you have uncooked sausage) and nicely browned.  I like my sausage a little crispy, if you don’t feel free to just cook it or heat it to your liking. Remove the sausage into a small bowl and in the same pan melt the butter and saute the leeks and garlic until they are soft.  Add the orecchiette and let them brown slightly.  Return the sausage to the pan and mix in the heavy cream, nutmeg, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Top with the grated Parmesan cheese.

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