So delicious!! In Italy, the word ragù simply means “meat-based sauce”. And the meat was good and all.. but with scrumptious figs, shiitakes, parsnips.. it was hard to say who was stealing the show. I was inspired to develop this recipe after seeing cocoa pasta in a specialty food shop here in Seattle. It was such a beautiful, rich chocolaty color that I had to make my own. After much ‘googling’ I learned that it’s hard to find anything on chocolate pasta, but what I did find suggested that the subtle cocoa flavor would compliment an earthy, rustic dish. Funny, so does red wine! Say no more, we’re having ragù… and Barolo.
Before starting, I referenced one of my favorite books: Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. This book, by Pellegrino Artusi, was one of the very first Italian cookbooks (1891), written during a time when cooking was done by the help. It’s full of comical stories, and really demonstrates the difference between French and Italian cooking–proving that the French are far more meticulous! So when I look up a ragù recipe, this is what I find:
A dough made with three eggs should do, in my opinion. (That’s really what the recipe says. That’s it).
Pappardelle col Sugo di Coneglio (Pasta in Rabbit Sauce):
After you have washed your rabbit, bone it. Fillets should be skinned and cut it into larger pieces than you would if frying it. (So how big is that?) Place in saucepan to draw out retained water. Drain the water off and add some butter, a little olive oil, and a finely chopped battuto made of rabbit liver, a little proscutto, and the usual seasonings…
I think I’ve proven my point. The irony is in the name, Science.. in the Kitchen. Maybe an anatomy lesson but I don’t know if there was anything precision-like about it! None the less I cherish my Artusi and someday would like to own an original print. That’s the food nerd in me.. collecting hundred-year-old cook books. But you’ll never catch me chasing a rabbit around the backyard.
My Lamb Ragù
2-3 lbs of lamb, 2″ cubes (or rabbit–both are rich in flavor, with Tuscan roots)
6 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
3.5 oz shiitake mushrooms
8 dried figs
1 1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup Barolo (or another bold red wine)
1 ½ lbs cocoa pappardelle pasta
1 cups semolina flour
1 T cocoa powder
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 whole egg, plus 1 white
Brown lamb pieces in 1 T olive oil. Remove from pot, and add parsnips, carrot, onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves. Reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are soft. Return lamb to pot, add wine and broth. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 1 hour.
While ragù simmers start the pasta. First sift dry ingredients. Separately, beat eggs and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients to egg mixture. Roll out on floured surface and knead gently. Roll pasta as thin as you can get it, while still being able to lift the dough sheet off the counter without tearing. (Maribel used to say I should be able to hold the dough to the window and see the two towers through it, but we’re not in Bologna so just pretend). Then with a pizza wheel cut “thumb width” noodles, as Artusi says. I like to leave them long. (It’s sexy. Reminds me of Lady and the Tramp) In a pot of boiling salted water carefully drop noodles one at a time. They will sink. When noodles float to the top they’re done.
Back to the ragù. In a medium skillet, heat 4 remaining chopped garlic cloves in 1 T olive oil. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and chopped parsley to ragù and cook for another 30 minutes.
In a separate pot, cook pasta to al dente. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl; add ragù and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.
This recipe is certainly a Sunday project, but if you’re up for making the pasta it is definitely worth it. There is nothing quite as tasty as fresh pasta. So dig out that ol’ apron, flour up to your elbows and uncork a bottle of vine.. just be sure to reserve 1/2 cup for the ragù. 😉 Indulge..
Do you have a cherished cook book? Or a recommendation for reading a fab 2010 cook book? I’d love to hear about it!