Monday, September 28, 2009

Chicken Sausage Ragu with Homemade Whole Grain Spelt Pappardelle

If you ask me, there are few greater pleasures in life than homemade pasta. 

While the boxed stuff is a great shortcut, it pales in comparison to the flavor and texture of made-from-scratch pasta.  To this end, when dining out, I almost never order pasta unless it's homemade, and fortunately, a few of my regular restaurants do offer this option, including Pace in Laurel Canyon and Osteria Mozza, of course.

So, after months of promising myself to bust out my newly purchased Kitchenaid stand mixer pasta attachments, I finally went through with it and made my own pasta, inspired by my recent purchase of Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook.

After agonizing over what I should attempt first, I settled on making one of my favorite noodles, pappardelle, a rustic, thick cut linguine of sorts.  I like this noodle because it feels homemade - it's cut by hand, in chunky, uneven strokes - but somehow that makes it taste even more delicious.

For sauce, I think pappardelle goes best with a hearty, meaty sauce, so I decided to bust out my chicken sausage ragu which I make with red wine, knowing it would hold up to the big noodles.  I like to use chicken sausage because it's both healthy and delicious.  Ground turkey or ground beef would also work well in this sauce.

I also settled on using a whole grain spelt flour instead of the normal white wheat flour for a few reasons.  First, I find spelt can be an excellent alternative to wheat for some people with sensitivities, but unlike other wheat substitute flours, spelt has its own gluten, so I theorized it would hold together.  Second, the whole grain is a healthier alternative, adding more fiber and vitamins to what can typically be a rather unhealthy meal.  Third, I felt the nuttiness of the whole grain pasta would actually taste fantastic with my hearty ragu!

Wow, divas, I hate being right all the time!  Wink, wink.  This dish was a total winner, even one I think Mario Batali would enjoy.  OK, maybe I should go that far, but Kuzak sure scarfed the stuff down.  The thick cut pasta, coated in the savory sauce, tasted simply divine!

In fact, this pasta experiment went so swimmingly, that I plan to take on more homemade pasta recipes in the near future.  Next up? Most likely, Butternut Squash Ravioli, and if I'm feeling extra frisky in the kitchen, I may attempt one of my favorite Batali dishes, his classic Tortellini in Brodo, meaty chicken tortellini cooked and served in Capon stock.  It is Kuzak's birthday next weekend after all, and maybe, just maybe, this would be the perfect dish to celebrate.

Stay tuned to find out!

Note: If you don't want to make pasta from scratch, this sauce would taste great with any boxed whole grain pasta!  I make this simpler version at home all the time.

Domestic Diva's Chicken Sausage Ragu with Homemade Whole Grain Spelt Pappardelle

2 chicken sausages, chopped
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, pureed
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup hearty red wine (I used some leftover syrah)
1 bay leaf
pinch of chili flakes
salt & pepper
herbs, chopped (any combination of thyme, rosemary or basil is great)
parmesan reggiano

homemade whole grain spelt pappardelle:
makes 1/2 lb

2 cups whole grain spelt flour (whole wheat can be used)
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp olive oil


To make the ragu, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots and saute until starting to caramelize, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute for another minute.  Then, add the chicken sausage and saute for another few minutes, until cooked.

Add the red wine and bring to a simmer, allowing it to reduce for about 5 minutes.

Finally, add the tomatoes, bay leaf and herbs.  Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Chicken Sausage Ragu Simmering Away

While the sauce is simmering, make the pasta by placing the flour on a cutting board.  Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and olive oil.  Using a fork, whisk them together and then slowly start to incorporate the flour starting with the inner wall of the flour.  As you expand the well, keep reinforcing the flour walls to keep the mixture in the center.  The dough should come together when about half of the flour has been incorporated.

Once the dough comes together, clean off the cutting board, lightly dust it with flour and knead the dough with the heel of your hand for about 6 minutes.  The texture should be elastic and slightly sticky.  Once you're finished kneading, wrap the dough in plastic and set it aside for 30 minutes.

Rolled Out Dough Ready for Cutting

Using the pasta attachments (or can be rolled out by hand), feed the dough through several times, reducing the width to thinner settings, until desired thickness is achieved.  Place the rolled out sheets on a cutting board, and cut them into thick slices.

In a pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the the pappardelle for a few minutes, until cooked.  Remove from the water and toss with the ragu, adding a little of the pasta cooking water as necessary.  Scoop into pasta bowl and top with a little parmesan reggiano if desired.  Enjoy!

Businesses Mentioned:

Pace Restaurant
2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 654-8583

One of my stand-by restaurants, this Laurel Canyon gem features a rustic menu, chocked full of organic vegetables.  I love their pizzas, particularly their homemade sausage & fennel, and their homemade pappardelle pastas.  Also, their chocolate souffle that must be ordered at the beginning of the meal, is to die for!  Even better?  They deliver right to my house.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100

The Los Angeles restaurant founded by Nancy Silverton (La Brea Bakery) and Mario Batali. The Osteria is the more formal dining restaurant located next door to their more casual pizzeria.  Featured here for their incredible homemade pasta menu, the best I've ever tasted in Los Angeles!  Check out the classic Tortellini in Brodo next time you're there.  I plan to attempt it at home in the coming weeks!
Source for Ingredients:

organic chicken sausages, organic herbs & organic whole grain spelt flour from Whole foods

organic eggs & organic carrots from Hollywood Farmers Market 

Music on Tap:

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(from the new Beatles Stereo Boxed Set featuring all of their albums remastered)

The release of this box set, with every single Beatles album painstakingly remastered, is a huge musical landmark if I've ever seen one.  Featuring their 14 albums, all of which are spectacular, this is truly one of the best boxed sets to ever be released.  The two albums I've been listening to the most this week are Sgt. Pepper's and Let It Be.  For any serious music aficionado or Beatles fan, this boxed set is a must have.  Thank you to my BDFF, JP, for turning me onto this set!

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