Piedmontese Ragu Bianco
I first tried a white ragu (or ragu bianco) when I was skiing a few years ago in Sauze D'Oux, in the north western Piedmont region of Italy near Turin. The place we were staying in was extremely cosy, and despite paying next to nothing for bed, breakfast and dinner, I had one of the nicest pasta dishes ever one evening. I remember taking notes at the dinner table and speaking with my Dad trying to reverse engineer what was in this dish, and since then have worked really hard to try and perfect it. It won't ever be as good as when I had it first of all, but I'm pretty pleased with where I've got it to.
I love this dish for several reasons, one of which is because it requires 'proper' cooking - a careful balancing of flavours and intelligent seasoning. The sauce is very subtle, so too much of 1 thing cam overpower it. It can take a lot of salt and pepper, so be generous with those. If you can't find the pasta listed below, penne will be fine, but ideally you want big tubes for the sauce and the pork to get stuck inside. At its heart, it is a simple dish to make, but one I think is quite impressive and hopefully is a nice new way of making pasta.
Ingredients (serves 3):
300g maltagliati or paccheri pasta
250g pork mince
2 cloves of garlic
150ml white wine
200ml double cream
1 stalk rosemary, leaves removed
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp truffle oil (depending on strength)
70g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and season liberally with salt.
Bring a large frying/saute pan to a medium heat, and add the fennel seeds and peppercorns. Toast until fragrant, then grind into a powder using either a pestle and mortar or blender.
Finely chop the garlic and rosemary leaves. Set aside, separated.
Add the pasta into the boiling water, and cook to 80-90% of packet instructions, just short of al dente.
In the same pan as you toasted the spices in, turn the heat to high. While the pan is coming up to temperature, add a touch of olive oil and the pork mince. Fry until deeply coloured on all sides, then add the garlic and the ground fennel/pepper powder. Fry for 20-30 seconds ONLY, otherwise it will burn. Immediately deglaze with the white wine, scraping up any fond on the bottom of the pan, and turn the heat down to medium.
Add in the double cream, rosemary, truffle oil and 30g of the parmesan. Add some of the pasta water to loosen if necessary.
Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 200ml pasta water, then lift the pasta with a slotted spoon into the sauce. Toss to combine and cook the pasta for the remaining 2 minutes or so. Add in 2/3 of the lemon zest. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust, adding more truffle oil, lemon zest, cream or rosemary as appropriate. The sauce can take a lot of pepper, so be generous with the salt and pepper, as required.
Serve with a grating of parmesan over the top and some salt and pepper.
I'm dead proud of this recipe and recreating it from first principles, so would love for you to give it a go. If you do, please do drop me a message @OTCooks_Eats on Instagram, as I'd love to see your recreations and adaptations.