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Maltagliati Pasta with Spring Lamb Ragù

Spring Lamb Ragù with Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Maltagliati (badly cut) Pasta

Silky, slurpy, chewy. Pierced with a fork or spooned into my mouth. I’m a pasta fanatic. And I’ll admit that the myriad of shapes is part of the fun. From well-known noodles like penne and spaghetti to more fantastical creations like strozzapreti (priest stranglers) and semi di melone (melon seeds). Even the seemingly random-shaped maltagliati (badly cut) pasta shards make me smile. However, at today’s table, it’s possible to forget how much I love the traditional joys of pasta. That’s because as a cook it’s fun to explore the new. And lately, it seems there are so many choices when it comes to using grains as the base for whatever’s on the plate.

These popular grains have proven to be a delicious and healthful addition to my cooking repertoire. Which surprises me. As a persnickety traditionalist, it took me a while to embrace some of the changes we see on our plates. Quinoa, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, freekeh. These nutritious grains are so in vogue it’s easy to overlook pasta when dreaming up an interesting meal.

Yes, pasta contains gluten, that gremlin of so many modern ailments. But I’ll never give it up (and fortunately I don’t have to). I adore its silky, slightly chewy texture – which cannot be reproduced (at least this cook’s hands) using alternative grains or newfangled methods. Good pasta is made from durum wheat and always will be.

Good pasta is also surprisingly easy to make from scratch. You don’t even need a pasta machine: elbow grease and an empty wine bottle will suffice. So don’t be intimidated by all those shapes and funny words! Start with an easy, rugged type of homemade pasta such as today’s maltagliati, where the beauty lies in misshapen happenstance.

Handcut maltagliti pasta Fava Beansrehydrating dried mushrooms

Spring Lamb Ragù with Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Maltagliati

As for what to put on it, there you can go to town. What I like about Italian food – particularly pasta – is that it’s pragmatic, seasonal, and often up for all sorts of improvisation. I’ve gone for a simplified lamb ragù enriched with re-hydrated porcini mushrooms and complemented by sweet, seasonal fava beans and unpredictably gutsy artichoke hearts. GREG

Spring Lamb Ragù with Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Maltagliati (badly cut) Pasta
Spring Lamb Ragù with Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Maltagliati (badly cut) Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried poricini mushrooms
  • 1 ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • kosher salt and black pepper (as needed for seasoning )
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 2 medium carrots (peeled and cut into small dice)
  • 1 medium shallot (chopped)
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4–5 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (divided)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 pound fresh pasta sheets
  • 2 cup shelled cooked peeled (or frozen, thawed) fava beans (may substitute peas)
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (divided)

Directions

Place mushrooms in a small bowl; add warm water to cover and let stand for 10 to 20 minutes to rehydrate. Drain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or similar-sized deep pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and brown slowly, scraping the bottom of the pan and reducing the heat as necessary to keep the lamb from browning too fast, until the meat is well-browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer lamb to a bowl leaving as much of the fat in the pan as possible.

Reduce heat to medium. Add carrots, shallots, garlic, and reconstituted chopped mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened somewhat, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook for 2 minutes more stirring the whole time. Add wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits, and cook until wine has mostly cooked off, about 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid (take care to avoid any sediment), the broth, half the tarragon, and both thyme sprigs. Return browned lamb to pan and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low or low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until most of the liquid is reduced and the meat is saucy, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and discard. The sauce can be made ahead several hours or several days to this point. Gently reheat with a few tablespoons water before continuing.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

This dish calls for maltagliati, “badly” hand-cut, fresh pasta. To make it, cut freshly made egg pasta sheets into random-sized, 2 to 4‑inch trapezoids. Don’t worry about making each piece exactly the same size, shape, or thickness. The pasta should have an irregular look. Lay the cut pasta on parchment-lined baking sheets sprinkled with semolina in a single layer. Cover with plastic wrap if you don’t plan to cook it immediately.

When ready to serve add pasta, one piece after another to avoid sticking, to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, a couple of minutes until tender but still firm (it will cook further in the sauce). Drain the cooked pasta and transfer to the pan with the lamb sauce, retaining about a cup of the pasta water.

Add thawed artichokes and cooked fava beans to the pasta in lamb sauce. Turn the pan to a simmer; season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook pasta in the sauce, gently tossing occasionally with tongs, until sauce begins to thicken and cling to pasta. If the pan seems dry add a splash or two of the reserved pasta water as needed. Stir in ½ cup Pecorino Romano. Divide pasta among shallow bowls or plates and sprinkle with remaining tarragon and Pecorino Romano evenly on top of each bowl or plate.

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