Orecchiette mixed through a rich and delicious sausage ragù, topped with a thick and creamy béchamel sauce!
This dish really is such a treat. It’s perfect to feed the family, but also special enough to serve guests. Plus, it’s flippin’ delicious!! Follow me…
One of the key steps in this dish is serving it with a dollop of béchamel sauce. I stumbled across ‘Jacobi Cooks’ online who said that one of the cooks he worked with used to whip up a béchamel sauce to pour over certain pasta dishes. My initial reaction was ‘good heavens that sounds amazing’ but also ‘why have I never thought of this before!?’
Similarly to Jacobi, here we’re going to be serving the béchamel over a delightful sausage ragù pasta.
Simple Béchamel Sauce
Usual stuff, just butter + flour + milk. We’re also going in with a touch of nutmeg and a sprinkling of parmesan, just to spruce it up a little.
Process shots: melt butter (photo 1), stir in flour (photo 2), whisk in milk (photo 3), stir in parmesan, nutmeg, salt & pepper (photo 4).
For this pasta, you’ll want to grab some good-quality sausage meat. Don’t sub pork mince/ground pork, you’ll lose out on a whole heap of flavour.
What kind of sausage should I use?
I typically just grab a pack of sausage meat from the supermarket, although you can squeeze the meat from some pork sausages if you prefer. Because we’re seasoning the sausage meat ourselves, I recommend just getting plain sausage meat/sausages (i.e. no fancy flavour combos). If you’re in the US and can get plain sausage meat use that, if not I imagine mild Italian sausage will work just fine.
Process shots: add shallots and garlic to oil (photo 1), fry until soft (photo 2), add sausage (photo 3), fry until browned (photo 4).
Orecchiette with Sausage Ragù
The base of the ragù is tomato, but it’s also balanced out with some chicken stock and milk (yes you read that right, not cream – who even am I these days?!).
To take the sauce to the next level, we’re going to add some fennel seeds, along with some oregano and chilli flakes.
What is orecchiette?
Orecchiette is small ear-shaped pasta. I believe ‘orecchiette’ literally means ‘small ears’. It works amazingly in this dish because it contains all the little pieces of ragù!
Process shots: stir fennel seeds & tomato puree into sausage (photo 1), add white wine and simmer (photo 2), add stock, milk & seasoning and simmer (photo 3), add cooked pasta (photo 4), stir then add parmesan (photo 5), stir (photo 6).
Sausage Orecchiette FAQ
Where can I find orecchiette?
You will find it online or in Italian food stores, but I believe they sell it in Tesco and Waitrose too.
Can I use different pasta?
If you can get your hands on orecchiette then definitely use that, but if not then any sort of short-cut pasta will do the trick.
Do I have to add fennel?
Fennel has a very strong, pungent flavour, but it goes so beautifully with pork. If you know you don’t like it then you can leave it out, if you’re unsure you can start with a smaller amount and work up.
Serving Sausage Orecchiette
Once your sausage pasta is ready to rock and roll, you can then serve it with a few spoonfuls of the béchamel sauce, alongside small fresh basil leaves for a final pop of colour and flavour.
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this sausage orecchiette shall we?!
How to make Orecchiette with Sausage (Full Recipe & Video)
Orecchiette with Sausage
- Large Pan & Wooden Spoon
- Small Pot & Whisk (for béchamel sauce)
- Large Pot & Large Slotted Spoon (for pasta)
- Fine Cheese Grater
- 1 cup / 240ml Whole Milk
- 1/4 cup / 20g freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp Flour
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- Salt & Pepper, to taste (preferably white pepper if you have it)
- 14oz / 400g Orecchiette, or other short-cut pasta (see notes)
- 1lb / 500g Sausage Meat (see notes)
- 2/3 cup / 160ml Chicken Stock
- 1/2 cup / 120ml Whole Milk
- 1/3 cup / 80ml Dry White Wine (see notes)
- 1/3 cup / 95g Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste in US)
- 1/4 cup / 20g freshly grated Parmesan
- 4 cloves of Garlic, finely diced
- 2 Shallots, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds, crushed (see notes)
- 1/2 tsp Oregano
- 1/4 tsp Chilli Flakes, or to spice preference
- handful of Small Basil Leaves, to garnish
- Olive Oil, as needed
- Salt & Pepper, as needed
- In a small pot over medium heat melt 1 tbsp butter. Mix in 1 tbsp flour to create a roux, then gradually add in the milk, whisking as you go to ensure no lumps form. Stir in parmesan, nutmeg and salt & pepper (to taste). Gently simmer for a few mins until it thickens. You can make the béchamel at the start and reheat it over low heat with a splash of milk to loosen it up if you need to (give it a good whisk to smooth out any lumps). Or, make it simultaneously as the pasta is cooking and the sauce is simmering (step 4).
- Add a drizzle of oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add in the shallots & garlic and fry for a couple of mins to soften, then add in the sausage. Break it up with your wooden spoon and fry until golden and starting to form a crust. Stir in the crushed fennel seeds, then add the tomato puree and fry for a couple of mins.
- Pour in the wine and simmer until the tomato puree re-thickens and the pungent smell of alcohol burns off. Pour in chicken stock and milk, then stir in oregano and chilli flakes. Gently simmer for 10 or so mins until nice and thick.
- Meanwhile, add the pasta to salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Don’t drain the water.
- Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the pasta straight from the pot into the pan, embracing any water that comes with it. Stir through the sauce, then stir in parmesan. At this point you can stir through more of the leftover pasta water to loosen up the should if you need to.
- Check for seasoning then serve up with a few spoonfuls of béchamel and a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves.
b) Sausage – I use regular sausage meat from the supermarket. If you can’t find that, just grab some good-quality sausages and squeeze the meat from the skins. If you’re in the US and can get plain sausage meat use that, if not I imagine mild Italian sausage will work just fine.
c) Fennel – You can crush the seeds either in a pestle & mortar, in a zip lock bag & rolling pin, or finely dice them in a drizzle of olive oil (so they don’t bounce everywhere). Fennel has a very strong, pungent flavour, but it goes so beautifully with pork. If you know you don’t like it then you can leave it out, if you’re unsure you can start with 1/4 tsp and work up.
d) Inspiration – This dish is inspired by an awesome recipe I stumbled across on IG from jacobi_cooks. Do check out his page!
e) Calories – Whole recipe divided by 4 assuming 1/2 tbsp olive oil is used.
For another sausage and béchamel combo check out my Sausage & Fennel Lasagne!
For more similar recipes check out these beauties:
Sausage Pasta Recipes
- Sausage and Pepper Pasta
- Sausage and Fennel Pasta
- Creamy Tomato Sausage Pasta
- Penne Arrabiata with Smoked Sausage
- Sausage Ragu