Valtellina is the birthplace of so many good things, including...
Garganelli - Maccheroni al Pettine
Emilia Romagna is the home of world famous sfoglia, rich fresh egg pasta rolled paper thin. One of my favorite pasta shapes is made from this glorious dough - garganelli. They are formed from a square of pasta rolled around a bastoncino (stick), and passed over a ridged tool known as a pettine.
The story goes that in 1725 the cook of Cardinal Cornelio Bentivoglio d’Aragona ran out of filling for her cappelletti. The broth was ready, but whether a pesky creature consumed the meat filling or whether extra guests arrived, the result was the same - more pasta than filling. Resourceful and clever, she made the best of the situation and worked with what she had. The cook gathered some twigs and borrowed a tool from the weaving room. She wrapped the dough around the twigs, rolled it over the weaver’s implement, and garganelli entered the pantheon of pasta.
Don’t confuse this pasta with penne. Garganelli, because they are hand rolled from a square of dough, have a seam. Penne are extruded and thus have no seam. Garganelli are an egg pasta, often enriched with nutmeg and Parmigiano. Penne are flour and water. Poor penne. Lastly, the ridges on garganelli run a circuit around the body of the pasta, while on penne, they run the length of the pasta. No need to be confused. Think of garganelli as penne’s wealthy cousin. Garganelli have something else going for them. Made by hand, they reap the benefit of the texture of the tools used to make them. The wooden counter and rolling pin and the pettine itself impart a rough surface that holds condimenti better than the smooth surface of extruded pasta.
Garganelli with Asparagus & Hazelnuts
serves 4 to 6
Traditionally garganelli are served with a hearty ragu, but I love them with a light sauce and Spring vegetables. So right now is Garganelli season in our house. If you have no asparagus, you can substitute 1 cup of young peas.
1 3/4 cups 00 flour
1/4 cup semolina
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
extra semolina and flour for forming garganelli
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 pound young asparagus, trimmed and cut in 2 inch pieces
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned, coarsely chopped
5 ounces Gorgonzola dolce
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup fruity olive oil
salt and pepper
Make the pasta
Place flour, semolina, salt and nutmeg in workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse to combine. Lightly beat eggs and Parmigiano in 1 cup measuring cup. With processor running, pour egg mixture through feed tube. Process until mixture comes together. If mixture is too wet, add flour a tablespoon at a time until mixture comes together. Remove from processor, knead several minutes on floured board. Form into disk, and wrap in plastic. Set aside to rest 30 minutes to 1 hour.
How to make garganelli
Cut off one quarter of dough, covering remaining piece of dough. Roll dough by hand or with a pasta machine to 1/16th inch thick. On lightly floured board, cut dough into 2 inch X 2 inch squares. Place 1 square of dough on floured pettine with one of the corners pointing toward you. Place floured bastoncino on square of dough and roll bottom corner of dough over it. Continue rolling with firm pressure to roll dough around bastoncino and form a tube. Be certain the end corner is sealed. Slip garganello off bastoncino and place on semolina lined towels. Cover until ready to cook.
Make the sauce
Toast and skin hazelnuts. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread hazelnuts on rimmed baking sheet, and toast 10 to 12 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from oven and place nuts in clean, rough kitchen towel. Holding towel around nuts, rub vigorously to remove as much of the skin as possible.. This may be done several days ahead. Always store nuts in freezer.
Blanch asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Remove to ice water to shock and stop cooking. Drain and dry. Wrap in plastic if not using straight away. This step may be done 1 day ahead.
Cook garganelli 1 to 2 minutes (depending on how long they have dried) in a large pot of well salted boiling water. Drain pasta, reserving water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook briefly to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add asparagus, and cook another minute or two. Add 1/4 cup pasta water and hazelnuts. Cook until water is almost evaporated.
Add cooked pasta and stir until coated. Remove from heat and add Gorgonzola dolce and parsley, stirring until pasta and vegetables are well coated and cheese is almost completely melted. Season with salt and pepper, adding a bit more pasta water if pasta appears too tight. Serve at once.
Pettine are available from ArtisanalPastaTools.com