BUTCHER'S SAUCE FOR PASTA - Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Ragu del macellaio
Preparation - Medium
Serves 6 - 8

A hearty ragu like this may be served with any of the homemade semolina pastas described, but it's a traditional accompaniment to laganari or troccoli, long, thin, square pastas like the famous Abruzzese pasta alla chitarra. The wooden rolling pins with regular sharp ridges that you sometimes see in shops in Italian neighborhoods are specially made for cutting this kind of pasta, which, unlike the other semolina pastas, has an egg added to strengthen it. The meaty sauce is also fine served with a first-rate commercial pasta.

All over Italy stews and sauces are made from mixtures of a variety of meats - pork and veal, or chicken, rabbit, and lamb, or a selection of game. However, there is no need to go to desperate lengths to acquire small amounts of a variety of meats for this sauce. The dish is just as good, possibly even better, made with pork, beet veal, or lamb alone. (If you make it with lamb alone, and increase the amount of red pepper to give it a definite piquant heat, it will become ragu' del pastore, shepherd's sauce, instead of sauce from the butcher.)

  • 1 1arge onion halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound lean veal or pork
  • 1/2 pound lean lamb
  • 1 cup dry red or white wine
  • 1 pound very ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, mixed with 2 tablespoons tomato puree; or 2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped (one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 small dried hot red chile pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired
  • 5 or 6 whole cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups semolina
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt;
(or use 1 pound packaged pasta)

  1. IN a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients, gently saute' the onion slices in the oil over medium-low heat until the onion is very soft and starting to turn golden.
  2. WHILE the onion is cooking, use kitchen shears to snip the meat into very small pieces. Add the snips of meat to the onion, raising the heat slightly, and cook, stirring continually, until the meat is brown on all sides and the liquid it gives off has evaporated. Add about a third of the wine, stirring to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook slowly; when the wine has almost fully evaporated, add another third, stirring repeatedly, and then the final third. By the time the final addition of wine has almost completely evaporated, the meat should be quite soft.
  3. ADD the chopped tomatoes, chile pepper, cloves, and a little salt and stir to mix well. Lower the heat so that the sauce bubbles gently, add the bay leaves and several grinds of black pepper, and cover the pot. Leave on gentle heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, from time to time adding, if necessary, a little boiling water to keep the sauce from becoming too thick.
  4. MEANWHILE, make fresh pasta, following the directions in the recipe for ciceri e tria, but adding the egg, lightly beaten, with the water. Cut the rolled-out pasta with a ridged rolling pin (available in shops in Italian neighborhoods) or put through the pasta machine to make narrow strips. Set aside on a lightly floured towel to dry for 30 minutes while the sauce cooks.
  5. WHEN the sauce is done, taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove and discard the bay leaves and cloves.
  6. BRING a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente-about 5 to 7 minutes for homemade pasta, 10 to 12 minutes for commercial pasta. Put a ladleful of the sauce in the bottom of a heated serving bowl. Drain the pasta and turn it into the sauce, mixing well, then add more sauce on top. Serve immediately, passing additional sauce and a little grated cheese if desired.

Flavors of Puglia
Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Broadway Books




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