Gramigna is a delightful curlicue shaped pasta from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The word means Bermuda grass in Italian and I suppose the pasta does rather resemble it, if you make liberal use of your imagination.
There are various ways to dress gramigna, but surely the best known is gramigna con salsiccia, or Gramigna with Sausage. The pasta is tossed in a light but flavorful sauce that starts with sausage meat, crumbled and gently sautéed with a bit of onion in olive oil. You then have two equally delicious options: for a “white” version, you add cream to simmer along with the sautéed sausage, and for a “red” one, some tomato passata.
The red version will take a bit longer, but either one is so quick you’ll have dinner on the table in less than a half hour. Now that’s my kind of fast food!
- 400g (14 oz) gramigna (see Notes)
- 250g (1/2 lb) sausage meat, or more to taste
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- A splash of white wine
- 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream or passata di pomodoro
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, to taste
In a skillet or braiser, gently sauté the minced onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.
Add the sausage meat, which you will have removed from its casings and broken up with a fork. Mix it with the onion and let it, too, sauté gently, breaking it up further, if need be, with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks.
When the sausage meat has lost its red color and is just beginning to brown around the edges, pour in a splash of white wine and let it evaporate.
Add the heavy cream or passata and simmer. If using heavy cream, let it simmer for just a minute or two, until the cream has reduced. If using passata, let it simmer until well reduced to sauce-y consistency and the oil separates.
While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it well and add the gramigna. Cook until al dente.
When the pasta has cooked, transfer it to sauce, along with a small ladleful of the pasta water, and toss. Simmer until the sauce coats the pasta well.
Serve right away, with grated parmigiano-reggiano for those who want it.
Notes on Gramigna
Gramigna is available online in the US but I’ve never seen it in a store. Funny that it’s not better known on these shores, as it much resembles the elbow macaroni so beloved by Americans. Go figure. And speaking of which, if you don’t want to shell out for gramigna (at $15 per pound, it’s not cheap) then elbows would in fact, make an acceptable substitute, as would small pasta shells, which would catch the sausage bits rather nicely.
It almost goes without saying that your choice of sausage is critical to the dish. Most recipes don’t specify a type, but it does need to be fresh pork sausage. And since this is a Bolognese dish, I would go for a mild “Italian” sausage free of strong flavorings like hot pepper, fennel seeds and so on. If you can source your sausage from an Italian deli that makes their own, so much the better, of course. Truth be told, I haven’t yet found a commercial brand of sausage that I truly like, so have no recs to give…
The sausage to pasta ratio can be as high as 1:1 by weight, depending on how substantial you want your dish to be or as low as 1:2. I found the middle ground listed here worked nicely.
You can gild the lily by adding a bit of saffron, soaked in warm water, along with the cream (this not for the tomato option) or a sprig of rosemary or other herb for a bit or aroma. For a lighter dish, you could sub the cream for milk, which is sometimes mixed with a bit of tomato concentrate. For lovers of pure flavors, on the other hand, you can also leave out the cream or tomato entirely and just toss the gramigna is the sautéed sausage. It’s also perfectly delicious.
Gramigna con salsiccia
- 400g 14 oz gramigna
- 250g` 1/2 lb sausage meat or more or less to taste
- 1 1 small onion finely minced
- A splash of white wine
- 250 ml 1 cup 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream or passata di pomodoro
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Parmigiano-reggiano freshly grated, to taste
- In a skillet or braiser, gently sauté the minced onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.
- Add the sausage meat, which you will have removed from its casings and broken up with a fork. Mix it with the onion and let it, too, sauté gently, breaking it up further, if need be, with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks.
- When the sausage meat has lost its red color and is just beginning to brown around the edges, pour in a splash of white wine and let it evaporate.
- Add the heavy cream or passata and simmer. If using heavy cream, let it simmer for just a minute or two, until the cream has reduced. If using passata, let it simmer until well reduced to sauce-y consistency and the oil separates.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it well and add the gramigna. Cook until al dente.
- When the pasta has cooked, transfer it to sauce, along with a small ladleful of the pasta water, and toss. Simmer until the sauce coats the pasta well.
- Serve right away, with grated parmigiano-reggiano for those who want it.
Can’t get it online anymore, but found it at Molinari in SF.
Frank, since this recipe calls for a mild Italian sausage I was wondering if you’ve tried plant-based sausage from Beyond Meat. Their Italian version seems pretty good. Nothing against the usual version,, of course.
I’ve never tried it, Thomas, but if you do I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.
also make sure you make reservation in advance for alma civita. it is wonderful!
Did you ever go to Civita di Bagnoregio when you lived outside of Rome?
Sadly, no! It’s on my list, though, for my next trip back.
Well that is where my house is. I live in VA but have a home up in Civita. Let me know if you are ever interested in renting. I only rent to friends but since you lived there I would be happy to rent to you. it is too difficult to rent to others that don’t understand things like the washing machine, the stove buttons, walking up that bridge, no cars and so on. If ever interested I can send you pics. Last year was the first time in 20 years I have not been- uggh
Which sausage do you recommend here in the states? Breakfast or the fat Italian links? I don’t find either of them tasting like the sausage in Umbria. Wish I could bring it back when I go!
It’s hard to say, Julie. Truth be told, I haven’t found sausages here like the ones I used to know in Italy, either. But given the choice, I guess I’d go for the fat links… ? Breakfast links can be highly seasoned which isn’t what you want here. But why not try both and see what you like best?
Made this recipe last night accompanied with a good Italian wine, some Italian music, some dancing around the kitchen with my husband, and it was instant date night. Thank you for this recipe and lovely diversion during this pandemic. My husband LOVES this recipe. Your blog is the only one I subscribe to because I’m so picky about my recipes. I have no clue how you manage to always pull off a magic trick with so few ingredients. I have concluded it is attributable to your copious notes and the alchemy of simple Italian cooking. Thank you.
Sounds like a lot of fun, Ingrid. Glad I could contribute in my own little way. 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words. They’re gratifying to read. You’re right about Italian cookery, it never ceases to amaze me how much flavor you can get out of just a few well-chosen ingredients. But I do try to put the emphasis in my posts on the whole process of ingredient selection and cooking, so my readers can reproduce the dish as it was intended to be. If you can do that, then I’m doing my job right.
Ohhh that pasta looks pretty! need to find one of those.
Worth searching out, Raymund!
We have a shop in Toronto called The Cheese Boutique and one of their specialties is imported Italian dried pastas, I’ll have yo keep my eyes peeled for this variety next time I’m there, which coincidentally is today!
Good luck! Hope you find it. Gramigna is a charming pasta.
Simplicity and deliciousness in one dish! This is an amazing and comforting dish dear Frank! We thought to give the cream version a try with fusilli, since the Gramigna is hard to find.
Sounds good. The fusilli should work well with this condimento. Enjoy!
Interesting! I always love hearing about new types of pasta – I have a strange obsession with uniquely shaped pasta. Whenever I stumble across a different shape, I always buy a pack. Gramigna is a new one to me, though! This dish sounds like it’s right up my alley in terms of flavor! I love the simplicity of it – perfect for a weeknight meal that still packs a punch in the flavor department!
It certainly does, David. And I’m with you when it comes to trying out new pasta shapes. Variety is the spice of life! (No pun intended…)
This is one of son’s favorite recipe. It is delicious and easy to make. Thank you for sharing! Un caro saluto, Paola
It is a crowd-pleaser! Thanks for stopping by, Paola!
Frank – I’ve never heard of gramigna pasta, but I looked online and found it available for $1.95 a package! Think I’ll be ordering some and making your recipe. It’s available at http://www.piccolosgastronomia.com. As a side note, a friend of mine, (now deceased) who lived in Molise, wrote a book about growing up there, called “Grano e Gramigna.”
Wow, that’s an excellent price! By the way, is that book still in print by any chance? Sounds like an interesting read.
Beautiful week dinner; all the ingredients available and we are ready to make this one ! Thank you so much !
And thank you for stopping by! Hope you enjoy this dish. (And I think you will!)
*smile* Mr Google Australia has been most kind to this ignorant child on a Sunday morning ! Oh, gramigna is available at a number of on-line stores but our big Coles supermarket chain simply calls it ‘curly pasta’ and puts it on all its shelves ! Had never met the name: thank you for the lesson. Shall most decidedly try . . . hmm: the passata one for me also . . . glad to see my favourite plate again . . .
Lucky you if you can buy gramigna in stores over there! This is definitely one to add to your regular rotation. Great for those last minutes dinners where you’re not sure what you want to make and don’t have much time to make it in.
That looks delicious, especially with saffron. The gramigna remind me of Spanish Fideos No 2 – normally used to make a paella like dish. I will look out for them in a couple of nearby Italian delis.
Hope you enjoy it! I’ve had fideua (?) by the way and love it. In some ways even better than paella. Must be my Italian blood, lol!
I’m with you! I love paella, but always choose fideuà if there’s a choice on the menu.
I was just reading an article on pasta in Italy Magazine (online) and I get artisanal Italian pasta when possible but I think I just need to bite the bullet and order a whole bunch online. It really does make a difference and I imagine would especially in a pasta like this. Love that it is “Bermuda Grass” – have they ever seen it? Does it curl? Hmmmm. Regardless, the form is beautiful, and the sauce simply exquisite.
Yep, these artisanal pastas can be pretty pricey but I think it’s worth the splurge. Every once in a while anyway. After several aborted attempts to make them by hand, I just went in for a few packages of “pici”, for example. Expect a blog post in the near future…
And yes, I do think Bermuda grass curls. A bit, not quite like the pasta but then that’s where your imagination comes in!
I’m lucky in where I live — the two local supermarkets I frequent have good Italian sausage that they make in house, and there are several butchers and specialty markets within maybe a 15 minute drive that make extremely good sausage. And I have some sausage in my freezer this minute! No cream, though — I’ll have to make a tomato version of this. Really nice recipe — I often make something similar with ham, but haven’t used sausage for some reason. I will, though. Thanks!
You are lucky! Have yet to find sausages around here that I truly like. Both versions are nice in my book, although if I had to choose I might go with the tomato, too.
Bermuda grass?!! Hysterical. But what a beautiful pasta shape. And another example of the wonderful simplicity of Italian cuisine.
Indeed it is!
Hello! I’m planning on making Gramigna con salsiccia. It looks delicious! I was just wondering if I added 1 pound of sausage instead of 1/2 pound, would I have to add more cream? Thank you!
Yes, I’d add more cream. If you’re doubling the sausage you could double the cream as well. But do bear in mind, as mentioned in the recipe, that the sausage shouldn’t “swim” in the cream (or tomato). It’s meant to compliment and, in the case of the cream, sweeten the dish a bit. Enjoy!