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Papardelle in Sicilian Walnut Meat Sauce

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My best pasta meat sauce - pork, red wine and walnuts. Spectacular photos!

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This is my best ragł pasta meat sauce. Very simple to make with easy-to-find ingredients, you can do it tonight if you want to. If you can't find Sicilian wine, no problem, but please try to use whole walnuts you crush yourself. It's great fun and they taste better!

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Papardelle in Walnut Sauce
Papardelle al ragł di noci [papardaylay al ragoo dee notchee]
As a main course for 4
500gr / 1lbs Pork shoulder
500gr walnuts
400gr tomato puréed
fresh parsley
1 onion
1 glass red wine
1 stick cinammon
1-2 bay leaves
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
800gr papardelle or other flat egg noodles
Grated pecorino or Parmesan

First let's first turn these walnuts into a delicious topping for our pasta. I bought them at the local farmers' market from a man who grows them in Prilly on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

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Crush the nuts shells and remove the walnuts one by one. Check they are not black, shrivelled or furry. I use my granite pestle to break them on the side of my mortar. Great fun in the kitchen!

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A fistful of whole nuts will yield you only a couple tablespoon crushed walnuts. Try not to eat them all while working!

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Place your shelled walnuts on a tray in a hot oven and toast until they turn light brown and fragrant. Do not abandon the nuts in the oven or you'll burn them. Check every 2 minutes for doneness. In my oven, it takes about 6 minutes at 180C° but rely on frequent tastings to know when they are toasted.

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Coarsely crush the toasted walnuts in a mortar or using a rolling pin on a hard surface. You want texture, with crunchy pea-sized walnut bits emerging from the powdered nuts.

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We now turn to the ragł. These onions will serve as the base from which we will build up the taste.

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Peel and finely dice the onions.

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Cut the meet in 2.5cm/1'' cubes. Do not remove the fat.

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Prepare all the ingredients for the ragł next to your Dutch oven - clockwise from the bottom left: pork, bay leaf, diced onions, cinammon stick, Sicilian red wine, olive oil, tomato purée and parsley. The whole walnuts are here only for the picture.

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Left: Fry the diced onions in a little olive oil. Add the cinammon stick and bay leaf. This is a they way Indian cooks use large spices, toasting them to enhance their taste and dissolving it in fat. Sicily is indeed at an amazing crossroad of cultures! Middle: Add the meat and continue to fry over high heat. Right: the meat should be well browned before you move to the next stage. A more rational process would be to first fry the meat in very hot oil, reserve it, then fry the onions. You would get better browning.

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Now for a magical moment. Add a large glass of red wine to the still very hot pot. Your ragł will bubble fiercely and spit alcohol-soaked fumes back at the cook. Turn vigorously so that any browned meat or onion that stuck to pan will dissolve in the wine and contribute to the sauce's overall taste.

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When the alcohol has evaporated, add the tomato purée and parsley. Notice the huge cinammon stick from Istanbul's Egyptian Bazaar I used that day.

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Bring to a boil, reduce heat to the lowest flame and cover. Leave your pot to simmer for an hour.

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Fish the meat cubes out of the ragł and finely chop them on a board. If you have a meat grinder that will work even better.

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Chop in one direction, then turn your knife crosswise and chop again until you have ground meat. Why not use ground meat in the first place? This recipe, and others, is very specific about using meat cubes that are ground only after cooking. I think you would not be able to brown the meat efficiently using ground meat which would give out too much liquid, but there might be another good reason. Please do this on faith at least the first time, it's very easy and quite fun to chop the cooked meat. Return the meat to the ragł, add some water if needed and continue to simmer until the pasta is ready.

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Let's make the pasta. Italians eat strong meat sauces such as our ragł almost exclusively over wide flat noodles they call papardelle or fettucine. I recommend you make them yourself as this is the easiest pasta you can make from scratch. Look up my Spelt Paperdelle in Grouse Sauce article for more instructions. For today's ragł you could use eggs and semolina pasta or even add some whole wheat or spelt flour. The ragł can stand up to a little character in the pasta. Please do not make your noodles too wide nor too long or your guests will have trouble eating them without splashing sauce all over.

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Fill your largest pot with water, add salt and bring it to a boil on your hottest burner. Cook the pasta very much al dente - sometimes as little as 30 seconds is all you need.

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You can mix the pasta with the ragł but you'll need a very large pot to manage an even distribution of the sauce. It is safer to plate the pasta and then add a laddleful of ragł.

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Sprinkle with a little grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese and then with the ground toasted walnut.

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That's it. This immensely original and yet very authentic Sicilian dish will be a hit. The sauce has an intense red wine flavor with a hint of cinammon that reminds you of Sicily's proximity to Africa. The toasted walnut give it a crunchy texture and great seasonal appeal. Leave some whole nuts on the table to remind your guests of all your fine efforts shelling the nuts!


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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!



20 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by erik_flannestad
That's just about the most delicious looking thing I've seen in a long while.Thanks for the inspirations!
  • #2
  • Comment by anh
Thanks for the great recipe, it turned out very tasty and it was so simple to make!
  • #3
  • Comment by Jennifer
Bonjour Francois,I just came across your website, and plan to try several of the delicious-looking recipes. The photos are beautiful as well, Bravo! I especially love your site because I lived in Wallis (in Brig) for a year and a half, so from your website I can daydream about all of markets and other things I miss about Switzerland. Thanks so much!Jennifer
  • #4
  • Comment by Dr. Faust
Shalom From sunny Israel.I started this morning in my office Google-picture-searching for a monk's picture from "the name of the rose".It brought back up one of your pages regarding languages, which I dove into for some time: I love languages and passionate about acquiring a new one.[ it'll be Arabic which I can speak a bit now or German , which I don’t ] .But I'm even more passionate for cooking and photography and do them both [ as a professional hobby  ] , that’s how I found my way to this dish [ and others opened now in different windows ] .Well – a job well done, on both aspects, photos and food.  I'm enjoying your site [haven’t quite figured you yet, but also enjoyed the great-war postcards…]From the beautiful Galilee region, I send you a warm "Shalom", have a great weekend and thanks for sharing all the info. I've added my email , and since you are interested in talking about some subjects , politics etc. , as an Israeli I'll be happy to pay you back with info – Even if it is only my personal opinion, feel free to ask anything you wanted to know about the 'plain man's' opinion.: )
  • #5
  • Comment by Sarah
FX,Thank you so much for your beautiful blog!  This recipe sounds amazing; I can't wait to try it.  We have some lovely heritage pork at our farmers market in NYC, and I'm always looking for good recipes for shoulder.  I live in Brooklyn, and I went to lake Geneva once when my husband played at the jazz festival.  You remind me of how beautiful it is there...All my best,Sarah
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Thank you for your kind words Sarah! If you use ingredients from your local farmers' market you can't go wrong. Good luck if you try this dish, you are in for a success!
  • #7
  • Comment by Derek
Thanks for another great recipe.  I made this for Christmas dinner and it was excellent.  Plus, it was so simple and quick I had lots of time to relax instead of worrying about dinner.  I used a meat grinder instead of chopping the meat; just as fun in its own way, and very, very fast.
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
What an amazing praise for my article that you saw it fit for a Christmas dinner. Thanks!
  • #9
  • Comment by David
Bravo...another spectacular recipe.  I'll be honest and say I was a bit skeptical at first as it didn't strike me as a typical italian noci, or walnut sauce.My skepticism was quickly put to rest when I tasted the end result. Fantastic!
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
David I am so glad you tried the recipe and tha tit worked for you! It is indeed a gorgeous dish and one I am looking forward to cook again.
  • #11
  • Comment by Guido & Elsbeth
Guten Abend FX
Gestern haben wir Ihr Ragł nachgekocht und mit Hochgenuss bis zum letzten Krümel verschlungen. Einfach phantastisch! Es lohnt sich wirklich, anstelle von Hackfleisch Ragoutstücke zu verwenden und erst am Schluss zu zerkleinern.
Wir sind gespannt auf Ihre weiteren Kreationen!
Guido & Elsbeth
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
Guido und Elisabeth, herzlichen Dank für Ihren Besuch und ich hoffe, Ihnen auf meinem blog in der Zukunft wieder zu sehen!
  • #13
  • Comment by Adinda
This looks sensational. Just so happens we have a huge walnut tree in our garden, which made me look for walnut-recipes. Guess I'll just have to try this one out, it looks so good (and easy to make).
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
Adinda, I envy your huge walnut tree, just bought two more walnut crackers, it's such a pleasure to work from tree to nut to dish. There are some books about walnut cooking, last year I did a whole walnut dinner. But this here recipe is really exceptional, you can try it with eyes closed, it will work great!
  • #15
  • Comment by Seth
Thanks!  Very good and extremely easy to make.  The combination of Cinnamon and nuts was unexpectedly good.  This is going to be a winter staple.
  • FX's answer→ Seth, good choice, I just cooked this twice in the last two weeks, definitely a seasonal winner! Don't overcook it, though.

  • #17
  • Comment by Nicki
Hi, greetings from South Africa. Just wanted to compliment you on your wonderful website - it reminds me of all the things I love - Food, photography and Travel! I spent three years in Europe and learnt a new dish everywhere I went. One of the highlights was the realisation of how much better fresh pesto tastes, I will never buy a jar again! I will be trying your Pasta alla Norma tonight and will definately try this recipe and the chocolate lasagna soon!
Regards.
Nicki
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Nicola, yes food, photography, travel and more food, definitely the way to go!

  • #19
  • Comment by Ivo
Hi, thanks for a great recipe it is really amazing! Also, thank you very much for your enlightening web site. With hope that there will be new posts, all the best! Ivo
  • FX's answer→ Yes there are lots of new posts now!


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