I could very happily eat pasta every day. And around this dark, gray, bone-chilling time of the year, I can almost justify it. Being the devotee that I am, I keep a rotating file of to-make pasta dishes that comes out to play sometime in early February each year. This one is nearly straight from a recipe I saw last spring in Food & Wine. It called for strozzapreti which I happen to love for its magical sauce-catching prowess.
The Italian translation, by the way, is not exactly as charming, say as orecchiette (little ears) or capellini (angel hair). Strozzapreti literally means priest strangler, apparently, because it was so delicious, priests would choke themselves eating it so fast. Not the most uplifting scene to have in your head.
If you are not a big fan of the lamb, ditch it for some turkey or beef. I happen to love the funk of it with the sweet, caramelized bits of fennel and fresh bite of the mint and scallions. There are many, many layers of flavor in this dish which keeps you coming back for more. Just go slow. No choking, please.
strozzapreti with lamb ragu
adapted from Michael Mina
1 lb fresh strozzapreti
1 lb ground lamb (or ground turkey thigh)
2 t ground cumin
1 t ground aleppo pepper or 1/2 t crushed red
1 t fennel pollen or coastal california fennel pollen rub
1 t smoked paprika
2 T harrisa
3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and cut to the same size as onion dice
2 c diced canned tomatoes
2 c chicken stock
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
6 scallions, sliced on an angle
1/2 c mint leaves, cut into ribbons
salt and pepper to taste
shaved pecorino cheese for serving
Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and brown the lamb.
Add the fennel bulb, onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the spices, tomatoes and broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn down to simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes. About 10 minutes before the ragu is done, cook the pasta. Remove the cover, add the cherry tomatoes, scallions and half the mint. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well.
Garnish with the remaining mint and pass the cheese.