Pasta with Sausage, Pancetta and Two Cheeses
Serves 4 to 6
This pasta recipe is quick, easy, creamy and delicious. I used to make something similar using cream instead of ricotta cheese. However, I had successfully substituted ricotta cheese in a few other recipes in the past, so I decided to give it a try. It works perfectly in this recipe as well. If you cannot find pancetta, which is an Italian cured bacon, substitute regular bacon or omit it entirely.
- 3 cups ricotta cheese, about 1 pound
- 1 pound penne rigate, ziti or similar pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian bulk sausage, or links with casing removed
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
- 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons (or 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crushed red pepper flakes (optional, see notes below)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, more for passing
Place the ricotta cheese in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter for about 30 minutes to drain off extra liquid.
Heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the pancetta and sausage. Brown, breaking up the sausage as it cooks, about 4 minutes. Remove all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of the oil from the pan. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Vigorously stir the ricotta cheese until smooth. Add to the pan with the sage, salt and pepper. Stir until the cheese combines with the sausage. Add the optional pepper flakes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauce with as much of the liquid as needed to loosen the sauce. Add the Romano cheese and toss well for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese separately.
Notes: Adding the pepper flakes at the end of the cooking adds an occasional hit of heat. If everyone likes more heat, add them when you add the garlic to the sauce to infuse with heat. Alternately, do not add to the sauce and pass when serving so everyone can add as much as they want, or none at all.