We generally eat pasta most weeknights for dinner. I'll make several nights' worth of “sauce,” whether that's radicchio and pancetta, or greens and garlic, or if I'm short on time a quickly cooked tomato and tuna (don't make that face if you haven't tried it) and then make pasta fresh each night and toss with the sauce. In the summer, we eat mostly hot pasta tossed in fresh, uncooked heirloom tomatoes and herbs. Simple but darn near perfect.
When my employment thinned this fall, we kept that approach, but since time was a little less precious, I started making home-made pasta more often. I was on a stuffed-pasta kick for awhile, particularly agnolotti, which are great self-closers. Stuffed with chestnuts, or almonds, or cheese and a bit of pear, or sweet potatoes and sage, they're fun to make and always good eating. Somewhere I have a friend's recipe for Sardinian sheep cheese and potato agnolotti (with a little bit of lightly browned onion) that I need to make again.
This week's pasta is lamb ragu, using the shoulder I bought at the market this weekend. The various northern Italian ragus are all pretty similar in their fabrication (odori/mirepoix, the featured meat, a little tomato, some red wine, and broth simmered together for few hours), where the meat (wild boar, squab, duck, lamb, rabbit or hare, etc), the herbs, the finish (add the liver at the last minute or not, include the meat or not), and the pasta (various shapes of regular, cocoa, ricotta, or chestnut pastas) provide the variation. I could eat them just about every day, which is good, because I have enough lamb for 4 nights' worth.
Last night was chestnut pasta, which though good, played up the sweetness of the lamb a little more than I'd like. It'd be better with goat, probably. A couple years ago I had a cocoa pasta with a cinghiale (the local wild boar) and black olive ragu at the tavernetta in Campiglia Marittima, which was stunning. The cocoa added a little bitterness to the pasta, really highlighting the flavors in the boar, yet didn't taste at all of chocolate. Mark Vetri's cookbook has a recipe for a cocoa pasta, which he serves at his excellent restaurant in Philly, so I decided to give it a try. Can you tell which of the pictures above is the chestnut pasta and which is the cocoa?
I have to believe the recipe is erroneous in its proportions, because there was way, way too much chocolatey flavor in the pasta, which was not a good thing, unless you're about 8 years old and hate lamb. Admittedly, I didn't follow his recipe exactly-- though 9 egg yolks for a pound of pasta produces a silky pasta that's fine for a high-end restaurant meal, it's too expensive and decadent for every day life. Even so, I can't believe that would significantly diminish the intensity of the chocolate-- seems like one slipped through the recipe testing. Anyway, I'll have to fiddle with the proportions to try to get it right for a future effort. For tomorrow, though, I think I'll make picci, a Siena classic, instead.