Margarita's International Recipes


Orecchiette alla Materana

Orechiette with Lamb or Pork, Matera Style

Orecchiette alla Materana

The Basilicata region was one of the first to welcome pasta into its gastronomy and has some of the most distinctive pasta shapes. Orecchiette, meaning "little ears", look like small, concave medallions. It's a good shape to go with pasta sauces. In Matera, it's mixed with a simple sauce that includes pork or lamb - both of which are raised in the region , tomatoes and cheese and is baked in the oven. I wouldn't be surprised if baked ziti, an Italian-American dish, descended from this.

I found several recipes for orecchiette alla Materana. Some add onions and white wine, though apparently the original method excluded them. None have much in the way of seasoning. In all, we were rather underwhelmed by the results. Though I used more lamb that the original recipe asked for, there was just too much pasta for the sauce. The sauce itself was one-dimensional and boring. The only thing that really helped the dish was the Pecorino cheese (I got mine at Trader Joe's), though we had to use much more than the original recipe called for. In all, if I have a hankering of cheesy baked pasta in the future, I'll stick to baked ziti.


Orecchiette alla Materana


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb or pork
  • 1 ~24.5 oz jar passata, 28 oz can San Marzano peeled tomatoes or 1 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 12 oz fresh Mozzarella, drained and sliced
  • 6 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated


Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb or pork and brown, stirring as needed. If using whole tomatoes, chop or cut with kitchen scissors. Add the tomatoes or passata to the lamb. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the orechiette and cook al dente. Once sauce is done, drain orechiette and transfer to the sauce. If needed, thin the sauce with some of the water from the pasta.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Transfer half of the pasta to an oven-safe casserole. Top with half of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with a handful of grated Pecorino. Repeat with a second layer. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Serve with the rest of the Pecorino on the side.

Adapted from Jacqui's recipe at The Pasta Project

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