Pasta with Oc­to­pus Ragù and Strac­ciatella

SERVES 4–6 Ac­tive: 3 hr. 30 min. • To­tal: 4 hr. 30 min.

SAVEUR - - Contents -

Gior­gia Goggi mixes this slow-cooked tomato sauce with oc­to­pus and saf­fron into pac­cheri pasta di Grag­nano, a thick, air-dried Ital­ian mac­a­roni. But any ro­bust pasta shape will do.

3 medium yel­low onions (1¾ lb.), di­vided 2 medium cel­ery stalks (6 oz.), di­vided 2 large car­rots (1 lb. 2 oz.), chopped 6 cherry toma­toes (2 oz.) 3 dried red chiles, di­vided ½ fen­nel bulb (8 oz.), minced, plus the fronds of the whole bulb re­served 2⅓ lb. oc­to­pus (3 baby oc­to­puses, or the equiv­a­lent in ten­ta­cle meat), cleaned 5 le­mon leaves or 1 wide strip of le­mon zest 2 bay leaves Freshly ground black pep­per 5 Tbsp. ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 2 Tbsp. dry white wine 2 medium gar­lic cloves, smashed 3 oil-packed an­chovy fil­lets 3 Tbsp. tomato paste ½ tsp. loosely packed saf­fron ¼ cup fine bread crumbs (2 oz.) 14 oz. dried pac­cheri pasta Finely grated le­mon zest, for gar­nish 9 oz. (1 cup) fresh strac­ciatella

(soft Ital­ian buf­falo cheese)

1 Coarsely chop 2 onions and 1 cel­ery stalk; add to a large pot. Add the car­rots, cherry toma­toes, 2 chiles, and most of the fen­nel fronds (re­serve a few pieces for gar­nish­ing). Add enough cold wa­ter to reach 10 inches up the sides of the pot; bring to a boil. Add the oc­to­pus, le­mon leaves or zest, and 1 bay leaf; lower the heat to main­tain a sim­mer. Cook un­til the flesh is ten­der when pierced in its thick­est part, 30–50 min­utes. Transfer the oc­to­pus to a plat­ter to cool. Drain and re­serve the broth, dis­card­ing the veg­eta­bles.

2 Re­move and dis­card the oc­to­pus beaks, and mince the heads and thick parts of the ten­ta­cles. Keep the thin, curly ends in­tact. Set aside. Finely mince the re­main­ing onion and cel­ery. 3 In a medium pot over medium heat, add 3 ta­ble­spoons olive oil. Add the minced onion, cel­ery, and fen­nel, the re­main­ing chile and bay leaf, and the gar­lic; cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til soft­ened, 8–10 min­utes. Add the oc­to­pus, wine, an­chovies, tomato paste, and saf­fron; bring to a strong sim­mer. Cook, stir­ring fre­quently and adding about ¾ cup of the re­served broth when­ever the sauce starts to look dry (about ev­ery 15 min­utes), un­til the ragù has a rich, saucy con­sis­tency, about 2 hours. (Sauce will also thicken when you add the pasta.) Keep warm.

4 Mean­while, in a medium skil­let over medium heat, add the bread crumbs and 2 ta­ble­spoons oil. Cook, stir­ring, un­til toasted, 5–7 min­utes.

5 In a large pot of boil­ing, salted wa­ter, cook the pac­cheri un­til nearly al dente. Re­serve a cup of cook­ing wa­ter, then drain. Transfer the pasta to the ragu. Re­turn to medium heat, and cook, stir­ring con­stantly, un­til the pasta is coated and al dente, 1–2 min­utes. (Add some pasta wa­ter if the sauce seems pasty.) Di­vide among 4–6 bowls. Top with dol­lops of strac­ciatella. Sprin­kle with zest, bread crumbs, pep­per, and fen­nel fronds.

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