Cookbook Profile

Chef Nicholas Stefanelli's Spaghetti
Al Nero Di Seppie with Crab Ragu

Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppie with Crab Ragu

Makes 4 to 6 servings


As exotic as it may sound, adding murky black cuttlefish ink to pasta dough-or to pasta sauce-is common in Italy's Veneto region. The glossy ink, as thick as finger paint, imparts more than its midnight color; it adds a richness and a brininess that is difficult to describe but easy to fall for. Nicholas Stefanelli is the chef at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, in Washington, D.C. I enjoyed this dish for lunch at Bibiana one day, and he was kind enough to share the recipe. What especially appealed to me was the simplicity of the sauce and how well the rich crabmeat and the earthy noodles complemented each other.

For the Pasta Dough

For the Ragu

To Make The Pasta Dough: Put 2 cups/255 g "00" flour and the semolina flour in a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine. Break the eggs into the work bowl and add the cuttlefish ink and 1 tbsp olive oil. Pulse the mixture until it forms crumbs that look like small curds. Pinch together a bit of the mixture and roll it around. It should form a soft ball. If the mixture seems dry, add an additional drizzle of olive oil. If it seems too wet and sticky, add additional flour, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse briefly.

Turn the mixture onto a clean work surface sprinkled lightly with semolina and press it together with your hands to form a rough ball. Knead the dough:

Using the palm of your hand, push the dough gently but firmly away from you, and fold it over toward you. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the pushing and folding motion. Continue kneading for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and silky. Form it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap/cling film. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Stretch the dough as directed below, and then cut it and shape it into "nests" as directed for maccheroni alla chitarra (see below), with one important change: stretch the dough to the third-narrowest setting (#5 on my machine) rather than the fourth-narrowest setting.

To Make the Ragu: Put the olive oil, garlic, and chili pepper in a large frying pan placed over medium-low heat. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and translucent but not browned. Stir in the crabmeat and 1/2 tsp salt, and raise the heat to medium-high. Sauté the crabmeat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring it once or twice, until it is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to low. Cover to keep warm while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and stir to separate the noodles. Cover the pot until the water returns to a boil, then uncover and cook the pasta for just a few minutes—less than 5 minutes—until it is just shy of al dente. Drain the noodles in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup/240 ml of the cooking water.

Add a little of the cooking water to the pan with the crabmeat to loosen the sauce, and then add the pasta. Gently toss the pasta and sauce over low heat for about 1 minute, then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat. Transfer the dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl or shallow individual bowls and serve immediately.

Simplify: The pasta may be made in advance and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Stretching The Dough

Set up your pasta machine with the rollers on the widest setting (#1 on my standard Marcato Atlas machine). Scatter a little semolina flour on the work surface around the machine and have more on hand for sprinkling on the dough.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces, and rewrap three pieces. Knead the remaining piece briefly on the work surface. Then, using a rolling pin or patting it with the heel of your hand, form the dough into an oval 3 to 4 in/7.5 to 10 cm long and about 3 in/7.5 cm wide. Feed the dough through the rollers of the pasta machine, and then lay the strip on the work surface. Fold the dough into thirds, like folding a business letter, sprinkle with a little semolina, and pass it through the rollers again.

Repeat the folding and rolling process a few more times, until the strip of dough is smooth. Move the roller setting to the next narrower notch and feed the strip of dough through the setting twice, sprinkling it with a little semolina each time to keep it from sticking and then moving the notch to the next setting. Continue to pass the dough through the rollers twice on each setting, until you have stretched it to the appropriate thickness. This will depend on which cut you are making, so be sure to read carefully the individual recipes and instructions for cutting the various shapes. Most recipes, including those for ravioli and lasagne, call for stretching the dough very thin—about 1/16 in/2 mm thick—though some cuts require a thicker sheet. On my machine, passing the dough through the second-narrowest roller setting (#6) produces a very thin pasta sheet, so I usually don't stretch past that setting.

Once you have stretched your piece of dough (it will be a fairly long ribbon, depending on how thin you have stretched it), lay it out on a semolina-dusted surface and cover it lightly with plastic wrap/cling film while you stretch the remaining three pieces.


To Cut Maccheroni Alla Chitarra by Machine: Stretch the pasta sheets to the fourth-narrowest setting on your pasta machine (#4 on my machine), slightly thinner than for tonnarelli, but not as thin as for fettuccine. Then use the narrow cutters to cut the sheets into maccheroni alla chitarra. The noodles will be long and "square" in cross section, but they will be thinner than tonnarelli.


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This page created October 2011