This pasta is inspired by the advent of spring, combining a homemade lamb sausage mixture with tender peas, shallots and greens in a light and cheesy sauce. I love the way the sweet greens contrast with the slightly spicy sausage made with mild and unique flavored American lamb.
The sauce is made from the rendered fat, a bit of olive oil, leftover starchy pasta water and Pecorino Romano, the tangy, salty firm Italian cheese. If you like Parmesan, then you’re sure to like Pecorino!
Ground American lamb is quickly transformed into a lamb sausage in this recipe. The meat is gently mixed together with garlic and fennel, paprika, red pepper, oregano and thyme for a slightly spicy taste and marinated to let the flavors meld together.
I think sausage is best cooked in a seasoned cast iron skillet because it evenly conducts heat and when seasoned properly it acts as non-stick. I like to cook it first over medium heat to brown it, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook it slowly to develop some crispy bits without drying out the sausage.
I opt to buy domestic American lamb rather than imported lamb, as it’s closest to the source making it the freshest option. When buying meat, look for American lamb on the label or be sure to ask your butcher for it. In addition to it’s unique flavor lamb is also a good source of protein, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, niacin, zinc and selenium! When buying ground lamb look for a pink to red color of the meat and I would recommend using it within two days of purchasing it.
I like using gemelli – s-shaped noodles twisted into spirals – because the light sauce sticks well to them and they remain chewier which gives some texture to the dish and spring vegetables. If you can’t locate gemelli then you can substitute with another favorite noodle, I’d recommend cavatelli or radiatori.
In a medium mixing bowl add the lamb, salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, paprika, red pepper flakes, oregano and thyme, using your hands to combine the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to overnight.
For cooking the sausage and assembling the pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water then drain and return the pasta to the pot.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the sausage, until browned, about 4 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook the sausage slowly at the low heat until its crispy, about an additional 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove the sausage from the pan, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible and set the sausage aside, returning the pan to heat. Add shallot and peas and sauté until the shallots are tender and opaque, about 5 minutes. Add the pea tendrils and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Return the sausage to the pan and stir to combine.
Add the sausage mixture into the pasta and toss to combine, add the butter and stir until melted. Add ½ cup of the pasta water and ¼ cup of the Pecorino Romano cheese continuing to stir until the cheese has melted.
Divide the pasta into warmed pasta bowls, top with the remaining cheese and serve immediately.
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