Sausage orecchiete

Sausage Orecchiete

First, a confession: My version of this recipe these days does not actually contain any orecchiete.

Orecchiete is a kind of curved, half-moon shaped pasta that somewhat resembles an ear. In fact, the word “orecchiete” means “little ear” in Italian.


I love orecchiete. It has such a cute shape that’s perfect for dishes that have smaller ingredients in them, because they get kind of scooped up in the curve of the pasta. They’re so cute and fun. I made this recipe with orecchiete for two years before starting this diet…and then, sadly, had to stop.

Because I can’t find a whole spelt orecchiete anywhere. There might be whole wheat orecchiete available somewhere, but not in my stores, and besides, whole wheat pasta makes me feel sick these days. So no more cute little ears for me.

But, I’m not willing to give up this recipe, because it goes from stove to table in less than 30 minutes, and we ALL need recipes like that. The only other dinner recipe I have that’s as quick and easy as this one is the Creamy Shrimp Linguine. (Both recipes, incidentally, came from our friends who live in Naples, Italy, and they say that Neapolitans only make quick, easy meals like these. I think I need more Neapolitan recipes!)

So, instead of orecchiete, I use spelt shells now. I figure it’s close to the same idea. Ideally, medium shells would be the best size-wise, but the only spelt shells I could find are small shells, so I’ve been making do with those. It still works – but if you’re able to find some whole grain orecchiete or medium shells, I’d suggest using those instead!

The “hardest” part of this recipe is having all the ingredients on hand. But once you do, this is a total no-brainer of a meal.

You start with Italian sausage. Hot or mild, depending on your tastes. I like to do half and half.



Now, technically, sausage is one of the foods to avoid on an anti-inflammation diet. However, if you’re able to find good quality uncured, nitrate free sausage, then that should be okay. Same thing goes for hot dogs and bacon. Applegate Farms has good options. If you’re not able to find uncured, nitrate free Italian sausage, though, a little bit once in a while is probably okay. I personally don’t have any reaction to it, but I also don’t eat it very often at all. If you have it every morning for breakfast, that might be a problem, but if it’s just once every couple of months you’re probably okay! (As with everything, though, go with what what your body tells you, and if it bothers you then don’t eat it.)

If your sausage is in links like this, then split them open with a knife.

Sausage orecchiete

Peel back the casing and plop the sausages into a pan with some olive oil and a couple sliced cloves of garlic.

Sausage orecchiete

Turn on the heat, and use a spatula or a couple forks to pull apart the sausage meat until it’s crumbly. This is also the point in which you’ll want to start a pot of salted water boiling to get ready for the pasta.

Sausage orecchiete

Get your capers. Capers are the buds of the caper bush that are pickled in a salt and vinegar solution. They have a wonderful salty, slightly sour flavor. You want to look for nonpareille capers, which are the smallest kind. Technically you could leave them out, but you’d be missing out on a lot of flavor if you do!


Since they’re so salty, you need to rinse them off a bit before adding to any recipe or your meal will be overwhelmed in salt. I just use this little sieve I have – I dump them in and run them under the faucet.


Put them in with the sausage.

Sausage orecchiete

Now comes the part that makes the sauce so good: pour in some white wine. I honestly never measure it – I just pour it in until the meat is mostly covered. The recipe says to use a cup.


And please – PLEASE – don’t use “cooking wine.” Use a wine that can actually be drunk. It doesn’t have to be anything special – I just used this Blue Fin because it was only $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. Just make it an actual, drinkable wine. Believe me – it makes a huge difference.


(And ignore that Aromat seasoning in the background of that picture. It’s full of horrible ingredients that really shouldn’t be eaten by anyone, but my husband grew up with it and is reluctant give it up. Sigh. MSG is the second – SECOND! – ingredient on the list!!!)

Your water should be boiling by now. Pour in the pasta and cook according to directions on the box. When it’s done, pour it into a colander and let it wait until you’re ready for it.

Let the sausage/wine simmer uncovered until the wine is reduced by half. You want some liquid left so that it creates a nice sauce, but not too much. It should be about 15 minutes.

Sausage orecchiete

Put the pasta back in the big pot in which you cooked it, and pour the sausage sauce over top.

Sausage orecchiete

Get some grated parmegiano-regiano cheese and pour it in. Again, I never measure this, I just pour in what looks good to me, but the recipe calls for 1/2 cup.

And use a cheese from the deli section that has only “cheese” in the ingredients. Do NOT use the Kraft cheese that’s sitting on the shelf with the pasta.

Sausage orecchiete

Stir it all up!

Sausage orecchiete

That’s it!

Sausage orecchiete

The sausage, capers, and wine combine to make the most wonderfully flavored sauce, slightly creamy thanks to the cheese. It tastes SO good! It tastes like you slaved over it for hours, when it really was probably only 20 minutes. Can’t beat that!

Sausage Orecchiete
Recipe type: dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 1 lb. whole grain orecchiete pasta (or medium or small shells)
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, half hot and half mild. (Can do all one or the other if preferred)
  • ¼ cup small capers, drained and rinsed well
  • ½ cup grated parmegiano-reggiano cheese
  1. Poor enough olive oil in a pan to coat the bottom. Remove the sausage from casings and place in the pan along with the sliced garlic and start cooking over medium-high heat.
  2. Use a spatula or two forks to pull apart the sausage until crumbly.
  3. Add in the capers and and wine and let it simmer, uncovered, until the wine is reduced by half - about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. When it's done, pour into a colander and let it wait until you're ready.
  5. When the sauce is ready, put the pasta back into the pot in which it was cooked, and pour the sausage sauce over top. Add cheese and stir together.


(Part of Real Food Wednesday)

2 thoughts on “Sausage Orecchiete

  1. Jenna

    I am wondering if you have ever tried this with chicken sausage. My family isn’t much into the truly spicy that we Italians like, but the chicken sausage tends to be milder. And how about using chicken broth instead of wine?

    Thanks for this great recipe!

    1. Rachel Post author

      You can definitely do this with any sausage you like – it will just change the flavor. We love the heat and fennel flavor of Italia, but you can use what you like! Using chicken broth instead of wine would certainly work in that it would result in a perfectly edible meal, but it would taste very different. Basically, using a different sausage and broth instead of wine will make an entirely different meal than this is and not taste anything like it, but I’m sure it would still be tasty! Experiment with ingredients your family likes – I’m sure it’ll be great!

Comments are closed.