Pappardelle alla Norcina
Pappardelle is one of my favorite pastas. The thick, wide noodles provide a hearty bite of pasta that can stand up to any sauce. Truffles are an elegant and rewarding addition to this dish and quite necessary to be authentic, however, they are quite costly, hard to find, and can be omitted from the recipe.
This dish is named after the Italian town of Norcia. Norcia is a small and remote Medieval town in the far south eastern part of Umbria, known for it’s cured meats and truffles. Mary Jo and I spent a few days there in the fall of 2018 and hired a guide to take us truffle hunting one morning.
The hunt was led by 2 Americans, that is 2 American Springer Spaniels. They were sweet dogs, on a mission. Our guide explained that the older dog was the mother of the younger one and was training her in the family business. In the old days, pigs were used to find truffles, but their goal was to eat the truffles they found. Dogs are used primarily these days, with their keen sense of smell, they can find the truffles and prefer to be rewarded with a small treat instead of the expensive truffle.
Our first find of the day was a “false truffle” as you can see in the palm of the guides hand in the photo below. The false truffle is smooth and lacks the intense smell of the “true truffles”. The center truffle in the picture with it’s smooth black bumpy surface is a true truffle known as a “summer truffle.” Summer truffles are the most common truffle found and have great flavor, but the third truffle is a “winter truffle”, rougher in appearance and is much more pungent in flavor and aroma. The winter truffles are more rare, harder to find (think ice, snow, cold, frozen ground) and a lot more expensive.
Pappardelle alla NorcinaCourse: EntreesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
1 batch Egg Pasta (recipe below)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 pound coarsely ground pork
2 teaspoons Fennel Spice Mix (recipe below)
8 ounces small button or crimini mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon minced black truffle
- Fennel Spice Mix
2 Tablespoons whole fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
2 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- Egg Pasta Dough
2 1/2 cups semolina flour (pasta flour)
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
- To make the Pappardelle pasta, prepare the dough (recipe below), roll out to setting 5, and cut the sheet into 10-inch sections. Dust the sections with semolina and roll them up. Using a knife, cut the roll of pasta into strips 1 inch wide. Unroll the strips and dry in a single layer on a baking sheet dusted with semolina.
- Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil with 1 Tablespoon salt.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the diced onion and stir for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly, stirring. Add the ground pork and fennel spice mix and mix well. Cook, stirring occasionally, allowing the pork to brown.
- When the pork is cooked through, add the quartered mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze with the white wine and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the heavy cream, stir and reduce the heat to low, gently reducing the sauce while you
cook the pasta.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, stir and thin out with reserved pasta water if necessary. Add the parsley, cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest and black truffle. Stir well and serve.
- Fennel Spice Mix
- Place the whole fennel seeds in a small sauté pan and toss over medium-high heat until fragrant and lightly toasted. Finely grind in a spice grinder.
- Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined.
- Egg Pasta Dough
- Place the flour on a clean working counter and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients to the center of the well and gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet, forming a smooth-soft dough (adding additional water if necessary to make the dough soft).
- Knead the dough 10 minutes, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. This recipe makes a little over 1 pound of dough.