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My first success in making pasta came with reading and following the recipe of Marcella Hazan in her first book, published in 1973. It was later modified and combined with another volume to create the one currently available titled The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Part of my affection for the first edition was for Hazan’s irascibility when she did not like a recipe. Endearingly human. But, back to the pasta: the ratio was 3/4 cup flour to 1 large egg. It is imprinted on my brain and, along with a pasta machine – my favorite version being the one by Marcato – the combination has provided me with many moments of Zen. I have fiddled with several other brands and for the money involved and the ease of turning the crank and the rollers, you can’t beat it. I used to take this tool with me when we went on beach vacations in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. And I even cooked my homemade pasta (always fettuccine, as it was the easiest) in sea water occasionally – it was preboiled and I had to add tap water, as sea water is really, really salty. My pasta-making adventures increased as we carried more Italian cookbooks in La Cuisine’s tiny book section. That’s how I became acquainted with Domenica Marchetti. She is a journalist who turned her fascination with Italian cooking and her heritage into a series of cookbooks. We held author events with her books, serving samples from each one. There were never any leftovers. I personally cook from most of her books, including the first one, Big Night In, which is out of print but still available. I was so anxious about losing this treasure that I have a back-up copy, and backed that up with a copy for each of my daughters (also insurance that they would not snitch mine, a practice that is a Pollard Daughter Tradition.)
A Lesson From The Miller’s Wife
Domenica Marchetti has utilized her Abruzzese heritage, the province of her mother, as a focal point of many of her recipes — much to the benefit of her readers. Italy is home to a staggering abundance of regional cooking traditions, and some areas are more publicized than others. There are dozens of versions of pasta carbonara, tiramisu and pizza margarita, but very few (they are all in Italian) that I can find for this pulled pasta from Abruzzo, which we created in her Showstopper Pasta Class. A credible Ragù Bolognese, I can almost do in my sleep. Ditto, Pesto Genovese. But this method of creating a simple meat-enriched tomato sauce for the maccheroni alla molinara, with the bonus of serving the savory chunks of meat as a second course, was new to me. You can also allow the chunks to fall apart and become part of the sauce, which the Resident Ragù Ranger loves. Domenica’s recipe for this Two-Way Ragù is given below and was first written for her book The Glorious Pasta Of Italy
To make this unique form of pasta, though, I think you have to take a class such as the one offered by Domenica Marchetti. (Don’t despair! Read on.) This truly regional technique is said to hark back to the 13th century and was thought to be the specialty of the wives of local flour millers in the Teramo province of Abruzzo. There are some tricks to the technique that are only explicable as you watch and copy what she does. It freezes well, in fact, you just take it from the freezer to the boiling salted water and cook it for around 20 minutes.
While we all have to reluctantly wear masks, and Zoom is now an adjective as well as a verb, both are now a vital part of our daily life. I would not ever have had a chance to take Domenica’s classes, as they were always in stores or cooking schools (she has taught classes from coast to coast) which were not close by. Zoom changed everything. Once you get your counter area set up, you are ready to go, and it is neat to take a class with people from across the US. In this case, some home cooks like me, a restaurant owner on the West Coast, and a journalist. Domenica Marchetti runs the class from her kitchen, which provides a professional and, at the same time, cozy setting. I found it easy to follow her with my laptop on my counter as we all weighed, mixed and pulled. It was good to see what problems cropped up and how Domenica guided each of us on how to either resolve them or be reassured to just keep on and the problem would disappear.
Domenica’s current roster of classes is on her website. Additionally, subscribe to her monthly newsletter so you will get the new calendar of classes. My British son-in-law, who loves making pasta, will receive one of her newly available gift certificates. And, by the way, once the Great Unpleasantness has passed, she will again be offering her tours. If food writing is a vocation you would like to explore, this particular retreat near the awe-inspiring ruin of Paestum would be a dreamy opportunity, and also one in Liguria and another to her beloved Abruszzo, complete with a visit to a vineyard, food producers, cooking classes, a picnic in the mountains and tours of sights you would never discover on your own.
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 6 oz (170gr) each, boneless beef chuck roast, boneless pork shoulder, and boneless lamb shoulder, each cut into 3 or 4 large chunks
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbs exta-virgin olive oil
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- a large stalk celery, plus some leaves, finely chopped
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped,
- 1/4 cup (60ml) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 fresh or dried peperoncino, or a pinch of crushed red pepper
- 6-7 cups (1 1/3- 1 3/4L) tomato passata (purée) or 2 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes passed through a mill.
- Warm the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot placed over medium heat.
- Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.
- Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, until nicely seared; then turn the pieces to brown on the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.
- Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra-virgin olive oil.
- Stir in the carrot, celery, onion, and parsley; reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.
- Add the peperoncino and sauté for another minute or so.
- Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
- Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.
- Add a splash or two of water if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if you like.
- Turn off the heat and remove the meat from the pot before using the sauce.
- Serve the meat as a second course; or shred it and return it to the sauce.
- The ragû may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.