Bigoli, Bigolaro, BigolaristHome >> Tools & Ingredients
When it comes to entertaining, I believe in memorable meals. No need for expensive ingredients or fancy recipes - all you need is something that people will eat with pleasure and remember a long time. On Saturday I had a couple friends over for lunch and decided to offer them a typical peasant dish from Veneto. You won't be able to cook this just yet, as it calls for a bigolaro, my largest pasta-making tool so far. It was the first time I used it, but I learned how to make bigolis like a duck to water.
As my guests arrived, I served a fava bean Parmesan soup made with beans I bought 2 hours before at my farmers' market, along with toasted sourdough bread covered with an emulsion of olive oil, lemon juice and bottarga. As they were finishing this, I tell them: Guys, I'm awfully sorry but I just realized we are short of pasta. Would you mind giving me a hand?
Out comes my bigolaro, this guest-powered pasta extruder from Northern Italy. You see, the people of Tuscany and Veneto were much taken with macaronis but couldn't make them with the soft wheat they grow up there. So they invented this pasta press that has so much pressure in it you can make proper macaronis using regular flour. But the favorite pasta shape is a sort of fat spaghetto called 'bigolo' - hence the name of my new friend - the bigolaro, I said.
My friend Peter is the first sit on it and bravely starts turning the huge levers. Does this make me a bigolarist?, he asks.
As the piston goes down, a lady guests replaces Peter and continues to turn. It gets harder now, and suddendly we see no less than 28 fat spaghetti emerge from the bottom. I rub them in flour as they come out so that they don't stick.
Each guest proceeds in turn until all my dough is gone. Not one of the 28 spaghetti has broken, and by now each is as long as the room.
I go down to the kitchen and come back 10 minutes later with the freshly guest-made bigoli in duck ragł. As they say in Veneto, Arna lessa e bigolo tondo alla sera rabalta el mondo (Round bigoli and poached duck make everybody happy).
Let me now show you how it works.
THE NIGHT BEFORE, I set out to prepare the duck ragł. The traditional Veneto recipe has very precise stipulations. Choked duck boiled in stock, ragł made from the duck's offals and the pasta boiled in the duck stock.
Add your aromatic garnish - carrots, onion, bay leaf, clove, celery stick and herbs. Do not forget some salt.
Bring to a boil, skim, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Fish out the duck, filter the stock and store overnight in the fridge.
THE NEXT DAY, the duck fat dissolved in the stock will have congealed on top. Remove the whitish top layer delicately with a laddle. You can pour it in a glass to see better how fat the duck was. In the days of yore, you would not discard this fat but leave it in the stock or add it back to the ragł for a more nutritious meal. But duck fat rendered like this does not taste like much, and were are not in the days of yore anymore. Discard.
Prepare your ingredients for the ragł itself - more of the same: carrots, bay leaf, garlic, onion, celery stick, the duck offal and a stick of cinammon, the Venitian touch.
Finely dice the vegetables and reserve aside.
Meet the gizzard, the strangest organ in the duck. It is the bird's pre-stomach and it has more abdominal muscle than the Gubernator. You need to cut it with a bad knife, because inside there is a green sack with the bird's last meal, including little stones. Remove it and keep the red muscle all around the sack.
The traditional ragł for bigoli con l'arna only uses the duck offal (gizzard, heart and liver). You may add the rest of the duck too but don't discard the offal, you would be missing all the fun. Make sure there is absolutely no trace of anything green on the duck's liver - you don't want any bile in your ragł, that would ruin your day.
Chop the offal as thin as you can.