Blecs with Nettles, Lamb and Crunchy Vegetable Ragù

DSC07254

Blecs is a pasta shape from Friuli. Blecs are triangular, square or lozenge shaped fresh pasta, similar to quadrucci or maltagliati. I tasted them for the first time at Trattoria Ai Cacciatori in Friuli, where the blecs were made with nettles and served with a ragù of lamb and crunchy vegetables. This was a delicious dish, and in this post I present something very similar.

If you can’t find nettles (which grow in the wild around here, but I don’t think they are sold anywhere), you could substitute with spinach. The nettles provide mostly color to the blecs.

The zucchini and eggplant should be diced such that each dice includes a bit of skin. This means the inside part of the zucchini and eggplant have to be reserved for another use. The vegetables should be diced to about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch), so small but larger than brunoise. Cooking the vegetables separately allows you to cook each type until it is just cooked through and golden, but still crunchy. This method takes into account the different cooking times that they require, and avoids crowding the pan (which would make it more difficult to keep them crunchy and get them golden).

The al denta pasta with the crunchy vegetables and flavorful lamb ragù make this a wonderful dish, that I will definitely make again. It is certainly fit for a dinner party. You could also serve the same ragù over regular pasta for a less involved preparation.

Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

DSC07206

For 3 servings

300 grams (.66 lb) ground lamb

250 ml (1 cup) vegetable stock

100 grams (3.5 oz) diced eggplant/aubergine

100 grams (3.5 oz) diced zucchini/courgette

100 grams (3.5 oz) diced red bell pepper

30 grams (1 oz) nettle leaves

2 eggs

225 grams (1 1/2 cups) Italian 00 flour

extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated pecorino cheese

Preparation

DSC07212

Wash the nettles a couple of times until all the sand has been removed. Use gloves or avoid touching the nettles.

DSC07214

Put the nettles in a pot and cover with water.

DSC07216

Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. This makes them stop itching, so they are now safe to touch and eat.

DSC07217

Drain the nettles.

Squeeze the water out of the nettles using an old tea towel.

DSC07222

Put two eggs in a the bowl of a stand mixer and beat them. Then, add the nettles and process briefly to mix the nettles and eggs.

DSC07223

Add about 200 grams (1 1/3 cups) of flour.

DSC07224

Mix with the paddle attachment…

DSC07228

…until the dough comes together. Add more flour if needed. The dough should only be slightly sticky.

DSC07229

Switch over to the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

DSC07230

Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to rest for at least half an hour. For a more detailed explanation of making fresh pasta dough with a stand mixer, check out this post.

DSC07231

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the clove of garlic. Tilt the pan and allow the garlic to cook in the oil until it is golden; this flavors the oil. Discard the garlic.

DSC07232

Add the diced eggplant and cook over high heat, stirring all the time…

DSC07233

…until the eggplant is golden and just cooked through, but still crunchy.

DSC07234

Lift the eggplant out of the frying pan with a strainer…

DSC07235

…and allow to drain on kitchen paper.

DSC07237

Repeat the procedure in the same pan for the zucchini…

DSC07238

…and the bell pepper.

DSC07244

Pat the vegetables with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil, and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

DSC07239

Add the ground lamb to the same pan over high heat, and break it up with wooden spatulas while it is cooking…

DSC07240

…until it is nicely browned and starts to sizzle (which means that most of the water has evaporated). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

DSC07241

Deglaze the pan with 80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine…

DSC07242

…and scrape with a wooden spatula to get the browned bits from the pan into the ragù.

DSC07243

Add 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable stock.

DSC07245

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat…

DSC07246

…and simmer over very low heat for about half an hour. When the ragù becomes too dry, add some hot water or vegetable broth.

DSC07247

Meanwhile, roll out the pasta and cut into blecs (squares, lozenges or triangles) of about 4 cm (1.5 inch) with a pastry wheel. The pasta should be quite thick, setting 5 or 6 on a pasta machine with 1 as the widest and 9 as the narrowest setting.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and the blecs. Cook for a couple of minutes, making sure that they remain al dente.

DSC07248

Meanwhile, stir the vegetables into the lamb ragù so they can warm through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

DSC07249

When the blecs are al dente, drain them. Lift about half of the ragù out of the pan with a strainer and set aside.

DSC07250

Add the drained blecs to the pan with the remaining ragù.

DSC07251

Toss to mix.

DSC07254

Serve the blecs at once on preheated plates, top with the reserved ragù, and sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino.

Wine pairing

This is nice with a medium bodied pinot noir, or another red that is not too strong like a Bardolino.

Flashback

DSC08343

In this pasta dish with zucchini, the firm outer part of the zucchini is diced and sautéed, whereas the soft inner part is used to make a ‘sauce’. The resulting dish was very nice with a lovely flavor and texture.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Blecs with Nettles, Lamb and Crunchy Vegetable Ragù

  1. I’ve seen nettles at the farmers market every Saturday but never knew what to do with them. Knowing that they could be difficult to handle made me wary of buying some. Now, though, I’d love to give them a try. May have to wait until next year but this dish is definitely in my future. Thanks, Stefan.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s