And A Life In Between

Lamb shank ragu with homemade cavatelli pasta

Lamb shank ragu with homemade cavatelli pasta
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Florence and the Tuscan hills at twilight

Italy was nothing like I thought it would be.   I thought I would really be keen on the history, the culture, the food, the wine… but I was wrong.  I didn’t like it.  No.  Instead I fell completely and utterly in love with each and every aspect of this incredible country.  From the breath-taking beauty of Venice to the magical Amalfi coast, with incredible Tuscany in between.

We spent our time in Tuscany using Florence as a base.  It was so much more than I expected!  It is a city of art, culture, great food and music.  Everywhere we went we were greeted with a tune; from street performers playing as twilight fell, while we marvelled at the Tuscan hills twinkling with lights and while famous Renaissance landmarks stood silhouetted in the foreground gazing out from Piazzale Michelangelo, to being caught up in marching bands walking down the street towards the marvellous Piazza della Signoria and its line-up of sculptures.  Life had a soundtrack when we were there!  Florence is really a place I think I could call home.  Sitting next to the beautiful Arno River, watching row boats go by, sipping aperol (without pulling a face), life felt pretty good.  (OK, if you’ve been following my blog you would know aperol is not a personal favourite… but as they say – when in Rome… or Florence!)

On one of the days we explored the Tuscan country side, we stopped for lunch at a farm called Fattoria Poggio Alloro.  It is just outside San Gimignano where you can find twelve beautifully preserved medieval towers (in its day it had seventy!). The farm produce and sell everything from olive oil, pasta, cured meats and of course, glorious wine!  Hubby and I first did a cellar tour before we sat down to an amazing lunch.  The setting was really what Italian dreams are made of, with spectacular views over the Tuscan country side and the towers of San Gimignano looming on the horizon.

Lunch consisted of lovely fresh breads with some prosciutto, salami, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Main course was the kind of Italian pasta you hope to have on a visit to Tuscany, served with a rich, delicious meat ragu and a side salad.  And don’t forget the wines!  We ended off with a sweet dessert wine.  Simply put – it was a foodie’s heaven.

So tonight, while weather is cooling down here in Cape Town and light rain falls outside, hubby and I thought we would pay homage to this wonderful meal we had.  Definitely a good way to start the weekend.

Lamb shank ragu with homemade cavatelli pasta

(serves 4)

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First get started on your lamb ragu.  While that cooks away, you can start on your homemade pasta.

We use a pressure cooker to cook the lamb shank quickly.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker you should aim to cook your meat for about 2 hours to ensure it is nice and soft.

Lamb shank ragu

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

500g lamb shank

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 medium carrots, peeled, and sliced diagonally

2 celery stalks, chopped

½ cup of frozen peas

Bunch of rosemary and thyme (tie it up, so you can take it out easier at the end)

1 cup of good red wine

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 cup of water

1 teaspoon of sugar

2 tablespoons tomato puree

400g tin of diced tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the lamb shank and fry until brown on all sides.
  2. Add the onions and fry until golden brown. Add the garlic and stir for a minute longer.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and fry for another 2 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  4. Add the cup of red wine and let the alcohol cook down.
  5. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, and the cup of water.
  6. Next, add the sugar, stock cube and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Now add your bunch of herbs and close the pressure cooker.
  8. Cook on medium heat for an hour. Now get on with your homemade pasta – see the recipe and method further down…
  1. After an hour, remove the lamb shank from the pressure cooker. Discard the bunch of herbs.
  2. Shred the meat off the bone – it should be soft and very tender. Discard the bone and any fatty pieces.
  3. Reduce the sauce in the pressure cooker pot (lid off) until it has thickened.
  4. Add the peas to the sauce and return the meat to the pot.
  5. Simmer at low heat, while you boil your pasta

Homemade cavatelli pasta

Ingredients:

500g of “00” flour

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ¼ cups of cold water

Method:

  1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a little well in the center.  Add the salt, oil and water and mix with a fork until a dough is formed.  (It works best to get it together in a bowl and then turn it out on your counter and work into a firm ball.)
  2. Divide the dough into small pieces and roll it on your countertop to form a “sausage”/rope that is about 1cm thick. Start by working your hands from the inside to the outside to try and keep the shape as even as possible.
  3. Using a knife, slice the dough into about 2 to 3 cm pieces.
  4. Next, shape the cavatelli with your thumb. Put the piece of dough on the counter and push the dough against the countertop away from you so that the dough stretches slightly and folds around itself, creating a little pocket in the middle.
  5. Place the cavatelli on a lightly floured baking tray (do not let them touch) and let it rest for 40 minutes.
  6. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Toss the cavatelli in and cook until it floats to the top and stays there.  It takes approximately 3 – 8 minutes, depending on the size of your pasta.
  7. Transfer the pasta to a strainer and drain.

Lastly, add your drained pasta to the ragu and let it simmer for 10 minutes to absorb all the lovely flavours of your ragu.

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Add your pasta to your ragu

Serve with some grated parmesan.

Fantastico!

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Lamb shank ragu with homemade cavatelli pasta

February 19, 2016
: 4

By:

Ingredients
  • For the lamb shank ragu:
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 500g lamb shank
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, and sliced diagonally
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup of frozen peas
  • Bunch of rosemary and thyme (tie it up, so you can take it out easier at the end)
  • 1 cup of good red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 400g tin of diced tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • For the homemade cavatelli pasta:
  • 500g of “00” flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups of cold water
Directions
  • Step 1 FOR THE LAMB SHANK:  Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the lamb shank and fry until brown on all sides.
  • Step 2 Add the onions and fry until golden brown. Add the garlic and stir for a minute longer.
  • Step 3 Add the carrots and celery and fry for another 2 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  • Step 4 Add the cup of red wine and let the alcohol cook down.
  • Step 5 Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, and the cup of water.
  • Step 6 Next, add the sugar, stock cube and season with salt and pepper.
  • Step 7 Now add your bunch of herbs and close the pressure cooker.
  • Step 8 Cook on medium heat for an hour. (If you do not have a pressure cooker, you will need to cook it for at least 2 hours to ensure your meat is nice and soft.)
  • Step 9 During this time, get on with your homemade pasta. See the method further below
  • Step 10 After an hour, remove the lamb shank from the pressure cooker. Discard the bunch of herbs.
  • Step 11 Shred the meat off the bone.  It should be soft and very tender. Discard the bone and any fatty pieces.
  • Step 12 Reduce the sauce in the pressure cooker pot (lid off) until it has thickened.
  • Step 13 Add the peas to the sauce and return the meat to the pot.
  • Step 14 Simmer at low heat, while you boil your pasta
  • Step 15 FOR THE PASTA: Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a little well in the center. Add the salt, oil and water and mix with a fork until a dough is formed. (It works best to get it together in a bowl and then turn it out on your counter and work into a firm ball.)
  • Step 16 Divide the dough into small pieces and roll it on your countertop to form a “sausage” or rope that is about 1cm thick. Start by working your hands from the inside to the outside to try and keep the shape as even as possible.
  • Step 17 Using a knife, slice the dough into about 2 to 3 cm pieces.
  • Step 18 Next, shape the cavatelli with your thumb. Put the piece of dough on the counter and push the dough against the countertop away from you so that the dough stretches slightly and folds around itself, creating a little pocket in the middle.
  • Step 19 Place the cavatelli on a lightly floured baking tray (do not let them touch) and let it rest for 40 minutes.
  • Step 20 Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Toss the cavatelli in and cook until it floats to the top and stays there. It takes approximately 3 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your pasta.
  • Step 21 Transfer the pasta to a strainer and drain.
  • Step 22 Lastly, add your drained pasta to the ragu and let it simmer for 10 minutes to absorb all the lovely flavours of your ragu.
  • Step 23 Serve with some grated parmesan.
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