One of the main differences between Dead Chef and a serious food blog is that the serious food blogs publishe holiday recipes on time, so that readers have all the time to make up their minds on their menu, buy the necessary supplies, and even attempt a recipe once before the big day. So it is with a little shame that I present you with my Easter recipe a full two weeks after Easter. The recipe is Malloreddus with Lamb Ragù, which should lessen the shame quite a bit since it's a pretty damn delicious.
So, Easter. I love lamb: so soft, so flavorful, so fat. It was one of the main reasons that Mr Bee and I spent our honeymoon in Sardinia, the beautiful Italian island that is heaven on earth and that perfected the use of lamb in cooking to an art. Among the million amazing dishes we tried on our 6-day trip (we ate in our sleep, too), there was a simple pasta with a lamb ragù that captured our hearts and possibly initiated their clogging. The pasta was malloreddus, a traditional small "dumpling" you can find in specialty stores or at conventional grocery stores under the name of "gnocchetti".
The main focus of the recipe, however, is the lamb ragù. I based my recipe on the Florentine ragù preached by Giuliano Bugialli in his precious tome The Fine Art of Italian Cooking (incidentally, a great culinary history book, too). I made Bugialli's ragù many times with beef, veal and pork, and even turkey (surprisingly flavorful), and it always comes out extremely well: rich, earthy, velvety, and abundant. I believe the secret lies in the use of dried porcini mushrooms to impart a robust, earthy vigor to any sauce. You might want to find some good-quality dried porcini for this; I get mine straight from Italy.
Once you have your lamb ragù, you just mix it with the cooked pasta and serve the dish drizzled in good extra-virgin olive oil and topped with grated Pecorino. It's a super-flavorful pasta with the pomp of a winter recipe and the simplicity of a last-minute spring lunch. Perfect for Easter, then, or right afterwards.
MALLOREDDUS WITH LAMB RAGÙFOR THE RAGÙ
4–5 large pieces of dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp EVOO + more to top off pasta in the end
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs tomato paste
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 C red wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 1/2 C vegetable stock
1 lb malloreddus (or Barilla "gnocchetti")
3–4 tbsp grated Pecorino, preferably Sardinian
- Soak the mushrooms in a cup filled with warm water for at least 20 minutes.
- Make the soffritto: Heat the EVOO in a large pot (I use a Dutch oven), and then add the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and let cook at a low heat until soft and a little caramelized. You might want to splash some water here and there if the soffritto ever gets dry.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium, and mix in the ground lamb. Sauté for 15 minutes, then spoon off most of the fat. Unless you want to keep it, of course. I'm not judging. *tips hat*
- Add the red wine and cook until evaporated, for another 10–15 minutes.
- While the wine cooks down, pureé the tomatoes with an electric blender.
- Once the wine is cooked down, add salt and pepper to taste and mix in the tomatoes.
- Lower the heat and cook for 25 minutes.
- Remove the porcini mushrooms from the water, give them a good squeeze, chop them, and add them to the sauce.
- Strain the water from the dried mushroom through paper towels or a fine sieve to remove any grit.
- Add the mushroom water and vegetable stock to the ragù and cook for another 1 1/2 hours.
- Cook the pasta in abundant, salted water, then strain and mix with the ragù in a large bowl.
- Drizzle the pasta with EVOO and top with grated Pecorino.
Note: If you really cannot find malloreddus, you can use other types of short pasta like conchiglie, orecchiette, elbows... Do not go as small as orzo, though, or it will turn into a sad slop of a dish.
Another note: The original recipe was for a beef ragù, but I made it with veal and pork and even with turkey, and it always turned out great. And at this point, you can use it for anything you want, from pasta to lasagne to chili to the Sloppy Joe of you life.