Mafaldine con Vitello di Chianina & Pomodorini Arrosto
Mafaldine with Chianina Veal and Grilled Cherry Tomatoes
We had just arrived in Rome and after some intrepid adventures trying to find our hotel, following directions from our Rumanian hostess by cell-phone... all that my best friend Stephen and I wanted to do was to sit down somewhere and eat! We just took the first option we could find for a lunch that was away from the tourist-traps on the main squares. We discovered a modest trattoria in a shady side-street and we ordered a plate of spaghetti with chianina veal. Much to my shame I had no idea what Chianina even was until Stephen told me!
For some reason we were both expecting a tomato sauce, a Bolognese-type affair... but we were presented with a pale, colorless and very simple-looking plate of spaghetti, with a few sparse scraps of meat. We were a little underwhelmed. Hmm was our reaction until we tried it. And then our reaction quickly turned to Mmmm! It was one of the most delicious plates of pasta either of us had ever eaten! So simple- but so very, very good!
Obviously, you can see that I have elaborated slightly on the dish I have just described- but the essentially it is just the grilled tomatoes and toasted pine nuts that make the difference here. As with most pasta dishes that are delicious, it is a very simple affair. The complete cooking time is between 20-30 minutes and the preparations are very simple indeed.
The Chianina is an elegant, white breed of cattle, which is indigenous to the Tiber valley and I am sure you could replace it with any other kind of veal or beef, but this particular veal is wonderfully tender and mild. My version of my favorite Roman meal went a little like this...
Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package- in the meantime you can prepare the rest of the ingredients. The cherry tomatoes are simply fried in a little olive oil on a grill pan at the highest setting- a few scorch makes will only add to the flavor! Sprinkle with a little sugar and salt and set to one side.
Next, make a "sofritto" of finely chopped onion, celery and carrot. Start frying this gently in olive oil and whilst it is cooking, make a fine dice of you meat. I prefer chopped meat to ground meat in dishes like this- it is more authentic, you know just how much fat you are getting and the results are always going to be better.
At this point you may want to pour yourself a white wine... you will want to have the bottle open and ready in a few minutes anyway! Turn the heat up high and add the chopped veal, a little more olive oil and some finely chopped garlic. Fry for only 1-2 minutes and then sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and de glaze the pan with a half glass of white wine. Grate with nutmeg, season well with salt and pepper and mix well.
By now tha pasta should be finished, so drain it and add it to your pan with the meat and sofritto. Grate with a little lemon zest, add a splash of milk and a last drizzle of olive oil.You could use cream if you wanted, but I prefer to keep the fat as low as possible... the flavor will be exactly the same. The milk may seem to curdle a little at first because of the lemon zest, but a little stirring will take care of that and it will soon smooth out again.
The sauce will thicken as the pasta absorbs it and you should end up with a smooth, creamy dressing! Grate with a little salted ricotta or Parmesan, grind generously with fresh pepper... and enjoy! Buon Apetito!