Pasta Ribbons with Lamb Stew
When I was filming in Basilicata a couple of years ago, I went into a trattoria, because of a wonderful smell: I discovered a lamb ragù steaming away in the kitchen. A plate of handmade strozzapreti (‘priest stranglers’) and this lamb sauce was presented to me, and the taste is still strong in my memory. The priest stranglers are noodles, made from durum wheat semolina and water, which are slightly twisted on a thin rod such as a knitting needle. It is most unlikely you will find these in a shop, which is why I have chosen the long pasta ribbons, which are curly on one or both sides, called mafalde. This recipe is associated with the south of Italy, with Basilicata and Puglia.
- 500g dried mafalde pasta, or equivalent
- 60g pecorino or Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 60ml olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 small hot red chilli
- chopped 1 carrot, peeled and finely cubed
- 1 celery stalk, finely cubed
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 whole shoulder of lamb, cut into chunks
- 2 fennel pork sausages, cut into chunks
- 200ml strong red wine
- 1kg ripe, fresh tomatoes or the equivalent of canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions. Fry until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the chilli, carrot, celery and bay leaves and stir-fry for about 5 more minutes. Now add the lamb and the sausages, and fry, stirring from time to time, until the meat gets some colour, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine, bring to the boil and let the alcohol evaporate for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste and a little water if necessary, cover and leave to cook slowly for 1½ hours, uncovered, stirring from time to time. Add salt and pepper to taste, cook for another 20 minutes, and the sauce is ready. Should you have too much liquid fat swimming on top, take a sheet or two of absorbent kitchen paper, lay flat on top of the fat for a few seconds then discard. That should get rid of a good amount of fat.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water for 12 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss in a little of the sauce. Divide between warmed plates, topping equally with a piece of lamb and a piece of sausage. Sprinkle with pecorino (or, if you prefer, Parmesan), and enjoy with a glass of Pugliese red wine.
- This would also be good with fusilli or even paccheri instead. Fennel pork sausages are fantastic with this sauce and are available from most good delicatessens.