The one imitation meat that really does taste like the real thing is “sausage”. (quotation marks denote fake meat.) My go-to brand is Morningstar Sausage Patties. (I’ve never actually tried any other brand since these are so good!)
So when I saw an episode of America’s Test Kitchen featuring Pasta Alla Norcina, I was pretty confident their recipe could be adapted quite well for vegetarians. And, was I right! I went one step further and added spinach – I happened to have some extra in the fridge. (Waste not, want not.)
Not only is my PASTA ALLA NORCINA FLORENTINE a tasty delight, but it can be made in about half an hour – great for busy schedules.
Note: Try and use the orecchiette pasta. The name means ‘little ears’, since that’s what they look like. They’re perfect for capturing the other ingredients in the dish, so you get everything in one bite.
PASTA ALLA NORCINA FLORENTINE – makes about 5 cups
- 12 oz orecchiette pasta
- 4 “sausage” patties (I use Morningstar original patties, but their spicy ones add a nice kick)
- 8 oz mushrooms (I prefer the common white mushrooms)
- 1 tsp salt + more for pasta water
- 3/4 cup cream
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 tsp garlic, pressed
- 1/2 tsp crushed dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1½ oz (about 1 cup) fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 oz Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped (tip: put parsley in a cup and use kitchen shears to chop)
- 1 T lemon juice
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.
As the pasta is cooking, bake the “sausage” patties per package instructions (about 15 minutes). Set aside to cool when done.
Pulse the mushrooms 10 times in the food processor. If you don’t have one, chop them very small. (Then, add “food processor” to your gift list for the holidays!)
In a skillet, heat oil over medium/high flame and sauté mushrooms for 7 minutes. Add in salt, garlic, rosemary, pepper, and wine. Cook until wine has evaporated. Keep an eye on it – it doesn’t take long (about 3-5 minutes).
As the mushrooms are cooking, break up the cooled sausage patties into bite-sized pieces and mix with cream in a bowl. Set aside.
When pasta is cooked, save 1½ cups of the pasta water, then drain. (FYI, pasta water is a great thickener.)
Into the mushrooms pour 3/4 cup of the pasta water, the “sausage” and cream, and spinach. Simmer 3 minutes.
Into the now empty pasta pot, combine the pasta, mushroom mixture, Pecorino-Romano, parsley, and lemon juice. Add in extra pasta water, if needed (I never need to).