We did a little NYC run last weekend and, taking a short break from stuffing our faces with Momofuku pork buns, we wound up at Gramercy Tavern for dinner on Sunday night. Beautiful restaurant and beautiful meal beginning to end. Let me begin at the beginning: lamb ragout with homemade parpadelle, preserved lemons, olives, and chard. Oh it was good. So good, I tried to recreate it today. My version tastes close to the original, maybe slightly more tomato-y than Gramercy’s but otherwise spot on. I might cut back on the tomato next time and up the stock a bit. I substituted the preserved lemons with a little grated lemon zest and some juice, but if you have preserved lemons on hand they would make a nice addition. (Any Moroccan or Middle Eastern market usually stocks them.) This is Sunday supper kind of food – simple to prepare but slow to cook. We made our own pasta to serve with the ragout, but it’s by no means necessary – just buy some good quality fresh or dried pasta. If you feel inclined, I included the pasta directions below. Serve with some sautéed leafy greens (gramercy nested them under the pasta, which made for a scrumptious surprise), a drizzle of good olive oil, some chopped parsley, and maybe a shaving or two of parmesan.
For the Ragout
- A good pour of olive oil (2-3 tbsp)
- 1 lb lamb stew meat, trimmed and cut into small chunks
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- A glass of dry red wine (1/2-3/4 cup)
- 1 28 ounce can good quality whole tomatoes, pureed in a food processor or blender
- 1-3 cups good quality stock (lamb, chicken or beef)
- ½ lemon zested and juiced, or 2 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemons
- ½ tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- A small handful of pitted olives (nicoise, kalamata, or coquillo)
- Salt and pepper
- Parsley, more olive oil, and parmesan to garnish
Pour the olive oil in a heavy bottomed medium pot and set over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and brown about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender and fragrant about 5 minutes more. Add the wine and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add one cup of stock, the tomatoes, the lemon zest and juice, the oregano, the cinnamon, and the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and cook for 2-4 hours until the lamb is very tender and falling apart. You want the heat as low as possible, so the ragout is barely simmering. Periodically, check to see that there is plenty of liquid left and add more stock as needed. Once the lamb is tender, stir in the olives and taste for seasoning again adjusting as needed. Depending on your tomatoes, you may want to add a little more lemon or a pinch of sugar at this point along with a little salt and pepper. You can also thin the sauce a bit before serving by adding some of the pasta water.
Mario Batali’s Fresh Pasta for homemade parpadelle (or any other pasta shape)
- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- pinch of salt
- extra flour for rolling
First, a disclaimer: I’m no expert when it comes to fresh pasta. I can think of several near-disaster kitchen moments in the recent past involving fresh pasta. But, I’ve learned a few things, and cross your fingers, my pasta’s been coming out pretty well.
I use Mario Batali’s simple recipe (above) as a base. Mario wants you to do it Italian grandma style and put the flour on the table and the eggs in the center, but I use a bowl to save myself from dropping egg-y goop all over the floor and/or the dog, who’s always standing eagerly underfoot. So, put the flour and salt in a large bowl, form a well in the center, and crack in the eggs. Swirl the eggs vigorously with your fingers, gradually incorporating the flour. This is messy, but don’t worry just keep swirling. Once a firm dough is formed, dump the mixture out onto the counter. At this point, discard any flour that hasn’t been absorbed (depending on the size of the eggs and the moisture content of the flour more or less will be absorbed.) Kneed the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes until very smooth and elastic. Wrap well in plastic and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and form them into discs. Set 3 under a clean kitchen towel. Process the dough using a pasta machine. Begin at the most open setting, pass the dough through and fold it in 3. Pass through 5 more times, then move to the next setting and pass through 4 times (folding in 3 each time). Continue down until you reach the desired thinness – I would error on the thinner side. As the dough gets thinner, you will not need to pass it through each setting multiple times (just once or twice each.) Keep the dough well floured as you work with it – this will prevent tearing. You want to roll the dough several times to give it more structure – just like kneeding bread, the starch in pasta develops gluten as it is worked. This gluten gives pasta its strength (so it doesn’t fall apart in the water and has a nice toothsome bite.) Of course just like with bread, you can overwork it, so don’t go completely crazy with the rolling.
Once you achieve the desired thinness, either pass the dough through the cutters on your machine or just lay it on a lightly floured counter and cut with a chef’s knife. Cutting one piece lengthwise into 6 equal pieces will give you parapadelle. Then, and this is important, you want to hang the pasta strips somewhere so they can dry out a bit and so they don’t stick to one another. The back of the kitchen chairs works well (watch out for curious little fingers and paws though – I’ve lost more than a few strands this way), or if you have a laundry drying rack you can set up in your kitchen that’s perfect. In a pinch, I’ve laid the pasta out on lightly floured sheet pans. You’ll want to think about what you want to lay the pasta on to dry ahead of time so it’s all ready to go.
Next, boil the biggest pot of water you have with a little salt then add the pasta, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. For a batch this size in a really big soup pot, you’ll have to do two batches. Boil for 2-3 minutes and then drain and serve.
All that said, I think the only way to make pasta well is to make it. And then make it again. And again. It helps to have two people to help with all the rolling and cutting and to clear off your kitchen counters so you have enough space to work.