The pasta course of a recent dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in Amsterdam, Bussia, was spaghettini (angel hair spaghetti) with a spicy ragù of venison and crunchy red bell pepper. I really liked the combination of flavors, and it inspired me to create this pasta dish as well as a venison stew about which I will post soon. It is not a classic Italian dish (at least not that I have ever heard of), but it is in Italian style. The use of paprika gives it a touch of Hungary as well.
I started the ragù with cubed meat rather than ground meat since I was making the stew and the ragù at the same time. If you are only making the ragù, you could also grind the meat before browning it. You could then omit the flour and season the meat with salt and paprika after browning it. If using ground meat, do not cover the pan while simmering to avoid ending up with a ragù that is too thin.
For 6 servings
500 grams (1.1 lbs) spaghettini
900 grams (2 lbs) venison stewing meat, in cubes
2 red bell peppers
about 250 ml (1 cup) warm water or venison stock
1 Tbsp hot paprika (or 2 tsp sweet paprika and 1 tsp chilli powder)
80 ml (1/3 cup) red wine
1 Tbsp flour, preferably semola di grano duro
1 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste (or 2 Tbsp single concentrated)
1 stick celery
1 bay leaf
6 juniper berries
1 clove garlic
some thyme sprigs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (optional)
Combine paprika, flour and 1 tsp salt in a small bowl.
Stir until homogeneous.
Combine the meat and the paprika mix and stir to coat the meat evenly.
Heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and add the meat.
Brown the meat on all sides and take it out of the pan, set aside, and turn off the heat.
Chop the onion, carrot, and celery very fine. I like to do this with the foodprocessor.
Add the vegetables to the frying pan over medium heat. There will be a nice brown crust from browning the meat. Add a bit of olive oil if needed and sauté the vegetables.
Scrape the brown bits of the bottom to get all the flavor.
Add the tomato paste, stir, and let it sauté for another minute.
Add the red wine.
Stir until about half of the wine has evaporated.
Put the meat and all of the juices that leaked out of it back into the pan.
Add bay leaf, juniper berries, thyme, and just enough warm water to barely cover the meat. You could also use venison stock instead of water if you have it.
Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a bare simmer.
Partially cover and let this simmer until the meat is tender, about 3 hours.
Check whether the meat is cooked with a fork.
Take the meat out of the sauce with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
Simmer the sauce to thicken it and concentrate the flavors to your liking. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and paprika.
Up to this point the recipes for the ragù and the stew are the same.
To make ragù, put the meat into a food processor.
Grind the meat using the pulse. It should not be pureed.
Clean the bell peppers and cut into very small dice. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over high heat and add the bell pepper.
Sauté for a few minutes over high heat until the bell pepper starts to color and is cooked but still has a bit of crunch.
Add the sauce and the ground meat to the bell pepper and stir to mix.
Add spaghettini (cooked al dente in salted water according to package instructions) and parsley.
Toss to mix.
Serve on warm plates. Freshly grated parmigiano is optional.
At Bussia the pasta was served with a barbera. Most powerful Italian reds with good acidity will work with this.