This weekend was my seventh wedding anniversary! After all these years, my husband and I are as in love as we were when we met in law school (we met in torts, how romantic!). Sunday was our actual anniversary, but we went out on Saturday so we didn't have to care about being out late. Conveniently, A Game of Thrones premiered on Sunday night and we took the opportunity to cook something tasty and geek out in front of the TV.
This pasta dish is something we make a lot in the winter. I've altered the original recipe a bit to make the spice mixture more to my liking and eliminate some waste. Instead of using one rib of celery, I use a shallot because I always have one around and I rarely find a good use for random celery. I added a clove of garlic and some extra ground fennel seed. The fennel seed makes the sauce smell heavenly and it brings out the lamb really well. Instead of buying a tub of ricotta that would sit in the fridge until it achieved consciousness, I used grana padano. Sometimes, we make our own pasta to go with it. This time, we bought some fresh pasta from an Italian deli up the street.
This meal is a good excuse for a nice bottle of red wine. Wine is a hobby of Dave's, so he decided to pair the dinner with one of his special bottles that we've had for a few years. He picked a bottle of Chateau Tour St. Bonnet 2005 Médoc, which smelled wonderful and went well with the cheesy, fennel-y goodness of the lamb ragu. I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe the wine, it's definitely worth a try if you can get ahold of it. It sells for around $20. I would link to the official website but (1) it's in French and (2) it looks like it was designed in 1997 and my eyes can only take so much of the blink tag.
This dish is very rich and as usual, I made way too much food. This is a half recipe of the ragu and too many noodles. The amount of ragu is perfect for two hungry people. I admit that I scarfed down all of my pasta and I think Dave did too. I'd consider using less in the future. I have a rosemary plant, and I think that fresh rosemary is very important in the ragu. I've used dried and it's just not the same! I use dried thyme right now, but when I plant my herb garden next month I'll start using fresh.
A word on cooking with wine. There are two schools of thought regarding wine in food. First, those who believe that you should cook with the wine you're drinking. Second, those who buy the cheap stuff for the food and drink the good stuff themselves. I belong to the latter. I buy the cheapo 4-pack of Sutter Home mini bottles and they work just fine. The "cooking wine" that is sold in grocery stores should never be used, it's got additives in it such as salt that alter the flavor significantly. Definitely stick to wine that is, in theory, supposed to be drinkable. I prefer the mini bottles because that way I don't have a bottle of cheap wine sitting in my fridge for weeks.
Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 2 hungry people or 2 normal people if you use less pasta.
I'll list the recipe as I made it instead of comments in parentheses since I made so many changes.
1 -2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
3/4 pounds ground lamb
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup dry red wine- cheapo is definitely ok!
One 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, diced with juice reserved- discard the basil leaves in the juices
3/4 cup low sodium chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
grated grana padano cheese for garnish - as much as you want
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1) Cook the vegetables. In a pot that is large enough to eventually hold all the ingredients (including pasta), heat the oil. Add the carrot, onion, shallot, and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 5 minutes.
2) Add the lamb, coriander, fennel, cumin, rosemary and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and some of their juices (probably about half), along with the stock and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes.
3) Cook the pasta. While the ragu is cooking, boil a pot of water. When the ragu is almost done, boil the fresh pasta for 3 minutes or according to the package. Drain well.
4) Combine pasta and sauce. Add the pasta to the large pot with the butter and stir until the pasta and ragu are well combined. Serve in shallow (or regular) bowls and garnish with cheese and fresh chopped mint.