Sweet or Hot, Your Choice

Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula—A ragu of ground pork and wild fennel from Sardinia served as the inspiration for this quick and easy pasta dish. Dry vermouth and citrusy lemon zest perfectly balance the richness of the Italian sausage and the pepperiness of baby arugula.


Orecchiette is a coin-sized, saucer-shaped pasta ideal for catching flavorful bits of sausage, scallions and fennel seeds; if you can’t find orecchiette, small shells and cavatelli work well, too.

Our preference is usually for the hot spicy sausage but I went with the sweet this time around. And as is customary for us, I reduced the amount of pasta down from one pound to 12 ounces (which is how many boxes are packaged nowadays anyway). It’s easy to do, but don’t forget to reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. You will need it to build the sauce.


Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced, white and green parts reserved separately
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 5 ounce container baby arugula, roughly chopped
  • 1½ ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated (¾ cup), plus more to serve


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot.
  2. While the pasta cooks, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into small chunks, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, then pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
  4. To the fat in the pan, add the scallion whites, garlic and fennel seeds. Cook over medium, stirring, until the scallions are softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the vermouth and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the reserved cooking water, the lemon zest and half of the scallion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Pour the mixture over the pasta, then add the sausage. Cook over medium, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the arugula and toss to wilt. Off heat, stir in the Parmesan.
  9. Serve sprinkled with the remaining scallion greens and drizzled with oil; offer additional Parmesan on the side.


Recipe from 177milkstreet.com


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