Hand-cut fettuccine with lamb ragù

Photo by Mak on Unsplash
Do you know that there's a difference between a Bolognese and a ragù? Well there is. A Bolognese has a thicker consistency and they're rightly used with larger pasta shapes like papparedelle or taglietelle. That thicker texture lets a Bolognese stick better.

A ragù is a bit thinner and goes onto smaller pasta like cappellini or linguine.

This week, we had people over for supper and in keeping with my pining for Italy, I decided to serve hand-cut fettucine with a lamb ragù. Making and cutting pasta by hand isn't difficult but it does take a little time. I like cutting it myself because the irregularities really show that I did the cutting with a chef's knife and not a machine. Little stuff like matters to me.

Making a ragù with lamb isn't something most people in the US would think to do but the ground lamb is what makes this ragù a real stand out. It's also an excuse to sneak some anchovy paste into a sauce. Anchovies and anchovy paste add depth to a sauce and because you use so little, I swear you can't taste the fishiness of the anchovy.

As a starter, I served my red lentil soup with lemon, tomato and cumin. That recipe is here. I'm teaching a private bread class in someone's home this weekend and a batch of this soup will come with me. How do you eat fresh bread without soup?

Anyhow, here are the pasta and ragù recipes and as always when working with flour, weigh it.

Hand-cut semolina fettucine

200g all-purpose flour
200g semolina
4 large eggs, at room temperature

  1. Mix together the flour and semolina and create a mound on the counter top with a crater in the center. On the counter top, crack the eggs into the center of the flour and semolina. Use your fingers or a fork to gradually draw the dry ingredients into the center, mixing them with the eggs. The dough will be hard to mix at first – a pastry scraper will help you draw it all together – but eventually it will come together and be relatively smooth.
  2. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for at least three minutes until the dough is very smooth. The dough should not feel sticky. If it sticks to your fingers, knead in a small amount of flour, just enough so your fingers come away clean when you pull them away. Wrap the dough and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. This allows the flour to fully hydrate.
  3. Using a bench knife, cut the dough into 2 smaller portions and re-wrap one of them.
  4. Flour the counter and a rolling pin and roll to a consistent ⅛” thickness. Cut to the desired width with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  5. Air dry for three hours or cook right away.

Notes: This will yield around four servings as linguine or fettuccine, however this same dough can be made into any pasta shape you’d like. This recipe can be doubled or halved as you need. It is imperative that you weigh your flour. Pasta depends on the correct ratio of egg to flour.

Lamb Ragù

2  tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1  medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4  garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2  tablespoons tomato paste
1  pound ground lamb
1  (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
A small handful of marjoram, oregano and/or thyme

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have become translucent and have completely softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add a pinch of  Aleppo pepper flakes and anchovies, and cook for a minute or two, just to toast the spices and melt the anchovies.
  2. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring occasionally so it has a chance to stick to the bottom of the pot and caramelize a bit, 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Add lamb and season with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, stir lamb until the fat starts to soften and the meat begins to break down. Continue to cook, stirring rather frequently until the lamb begins to brown and sizzle in its own fat, 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pot. Fill the tomato can halfway with water and swirl around to get all the remaining tomato, then add to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until sauce is thickened and insanely flavorful, 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Serve sauce mixed into and over pasta with plenty of cheese for grating over the top.

Notes: If you’re using dried herbs, add them between steps 3 and 4. If you’re using fresh herbs, add them in step 4. The sauce today is using lamb but you can substitute any ground meat you have on hand.