During my research, I found that the name "orecchiette" comes from its shape, which looks like a small ear. Originally in the Medieval times in Provence [southern France], women made this kind of disc-shaped pasta with a hollowed center by pressing a thumb on the disc of dough. This shape facilitated the drying process so that the pasta could be saved for a famine. Boats leaving for long trips would carry large quantities of this pasta [Wikipedia]. I'm guessing the reason is because they stack together really well - which brings me to a word of advice. When you are cooking this pasta, be sure to stir often in the beginning. Once these little ears stick together, it's all over. You'll have stacked pasta, which doesn't taste as good. Luckily, I caught it in time and only ended up with a few orecchiette stacks. This meal takes only about 20 minutes to prepare, so I hope you try it out :).
Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage & Mushrooms
Created in My Kitchen
Yield: 2-3 servings
1 1/2 cups orecchiette pasta [reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid]
1 large egg [at room temperature]
1/4 cup grated parmesan-reggiano cheese
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. spicy Italian pork sausage
1/3 red onion [diced]
8 crimini mushrooms [sliced]
1/2 red bell pepper [chopped]
1 jalapeño [seeded, finely chopped]
2 Tbsp Italian parsley [chopped]
Freshly grated American Grana cheese
1. Bring a pot of water with salt added to a boil. Cook pasta till al dente. Prepare everything else in the meantime. [Be sure to drain and reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid once the pasta is cooked.]
2. Heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick pan. Add sausage and cook. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. With the drippings from the sausage, sauté onions for 1 minute.
4. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until they are browned, about 2 minutes.
5. Add in chopped bell pepper and jalapeño.
6. Sauté another minute and then remove pan from heat.
7. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1/4 cup grated parmesan-reggiano cheese. Your pasta should be done around now. Take about 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid and whisk into the egg-cheese mixture.
8. If you whisked it correctly, the egg won't curdle and your mixture will look like a creamy cheese sauce.
9. Pour the sauce into the pasta, tossing to combine.
10. Meanwhile, heat the mushroom mixture over low heat. Stir in sausage.
11. Add pasta to pan, tossing to combine. Remove from heat.
12. Add chopped parsley. Mix!
13. Enjoy with some freshly grated American Grana!
Notes: You can use any other pasta. I recommend smaller pasta noodles instead of the spaghetti or linguine one - mostly for texture. If you like, you can use the traditional heavy cream and cheese combination for the cream sauce. But, this is a lighter method of creating the same flavor and feel using an egg instead.