Orecchiette with Mushrooms, Meat Sauce and Hot Pepper Oil (with Allergen-Free Version)

[Note: This dish can be used to celebrate St. Cornelius’ Feast Day on September 16. He’s the patron saint of ear ache sufferers.]

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This post is for my cousin Mariel who requested the recipe for this. I had prepared it for one of our dinners around Christmas, when we had our mini-family reunion at my brother’s in Reading, PA. It’s a simple dish, not too many ingredients. We first encountered it at the hypermarket Auchan in Pescara, where we lived for a time in 2009. They had a cafe of sorts right in the store, so people can grab a bite to eat before or after shopping. This pasta dish is served from a large vat (from want of a better word) about 3 feet wide, and the lady that serves you will ask if you want piccante with it, and I always said yes, as I think it’s the chili oil that really makes the dish. Enjoy, Mariel!

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1 lb. orecchiette (Benedetto Cavalieri‘s, which I use here, is a little over a lb.) — substitute rice pasta if avoiding wheat/gluten (Tinkyada is our favorite brand)
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork (turkey will do as well)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic, about 10 cloves
1 medium onion, chopped
a bunch of mushrooms, at least 8 oz., trimmed and sliced — my family LOVES mushrooms so I usually put a lb or so, since they cook down so much anyway
1/2 cup red wine, whatever table wine you’re serving with this would be great!
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, more if you want it creamier (substitute almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk if avoiding dairy)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

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for the olio piccante:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
a pinch of sea salt

freshly grated Parmigiano, Pecorino or Grana Padano for serving

If your beef/pork is on the fatty side and you want to discard the fat, begin with cooking the meat in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking it up and giving everything a good stir every few minutes or so, until fat is rendered. The beef and pork I get is usually lean, so I start out with the oil.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, for the pasta. Cook pasta al dente, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up and stirring often, until about halfway done, 10 minutes or so. Add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes, until just beginning to color. Add onions and continue to sauté until limp, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have given off some of their juice. Add red wine and cook down, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by about half. Add cream and lower heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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To make the salsa piccante: Heat oil over medium heat in a small skillet, until hot but not smoking. Add garlic, pepper flakes and salt. Remove from heat immediately. Let stand a few minutes then pour into a small bowl for serving.

Toss pasta with the meat sauce and serve hot, with the olio piccante and grated cheese on the side for diners to add as they wish.


For allergen-free version:

meat sauce, made with coconut milk instead of heavy whipping cream
meat sauce, made with coconut milk instead of heavy whipping cream

Prepare rice pasta according to manufacturer’s directions.
Cook sauce according to instructions above, except instead of adding heavy whipping cream after the red wine reduction, use coconut milk or your choice of non-dairy milk. Continue as instructed above.
Possible grated cheese substitutes, for sprinkling on top of pasta: either use veggie cheese alternatives, or toast some almond flour in a dry skillet, or use nutritional yeast.

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