Family Favorite Recipe: “Ear Pasta” With Mascarpone Cheese

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My family adores pasta. And because many pasta recipes come together quickly, we eat more than our share. One of our favorite pasta dishes is one I adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe for Orecchiete with Sausage, Beans, and Mascarpone.

Orecchiete is a small, dome-shaped pasta originating in the Puglia region of southern Italy. The shells look like small ears, which is why they’re named after the Italian word orecchio — meaning ear — combined with the suffix etto — meaning small. If you’ve not cooked with orecchiete, you’re missing a toothsome alternative to macaroni, ziti, and penne. The ears are thinner in the middle than on the edges, providing a “tender center, chewy outside” texture. They also excel at collecting sauces and the small bits of sausage and beans in this recipe. You can find orecchiete in most grocery stores on the dry pasta aisle.

This is a quick, easy, weeknight pasta recipe, but if you’re feeling adventurous, take a moment to make your own mascarpone cheese. It’s easier than you might think!


  • 1 pound orecchiete pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound breakfast sausage or turkey sausage
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces as you brown it for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beans and oregano, and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, scoop the cooked pasta from the pot into the skillet, bringing some of the pasta water along with it.
  5. Add the mascarpone cheese and stir until it dissolves into a light sauce. If you need more liquid, scoop a little more pasta water into the sauce.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir until the pasta is coated.

I hope your family enjoys this dish as much as mine does! Do you have other recipes using orecchiete or mascarpone cheese? If so, please share!

Image Credit: Mary Gerush

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