This is a very popular dish in the mountainous villages of Abruzzo. My second cousins run a restaurant in Torricella, and they serve freshly made pasta squares in a simple but splendid tomato sauce, crowned with a generous dollop of cow’s-milk ricotta (full-cream and unpasteurised). This is my personal take on the classic dish, devised to celebrate the crisp sweetness of spring vegetables. When Nonna Irene taught me to make sagne, she wasn’t her usual vague self about size and measures. She insisted the squares must be an even 2.5 cm × 2.5 cm. Given that this is the only time she has ever advocated precision in the kitchen, I make it a point to follow her instructions to the letter.
- 1 quantity egg pasta dough, rolled into 2.5 mm thick sheets (eg this pasta fresca)
- coarse semolina, for dusting
Ricotta and vegetable sauce
- 3–4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 1 clove garlic, skin on, bashed with the back of a knife
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 2 zucchini (courgettes), thinly sliced
- 150 g broad beans with pods removed
- salt flakes
- 150 g full-cream ricotta
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- small mint leaves, to garnish
- freshly ground black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Dust the pasta with semolina, then cut into 2.5 cm squares. Place them in one layer on a tea towel or wooden board generously dusted with semolina.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat, add the garlic and spring onion and cook for 1–2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the zucchini and and cook, tossing often, for 5–6 minutes or until golden. Turn off the heat.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in the broad beans and cook for 1–2 minutes. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and rinse them under cold water to arrest the cooking. Peel off the skins and add them to the zucchini and season with salt.
Return the water to the boil, then gently drop in the pasta squares and cook for 1–2 minutes or until nicely al dente.
Turn the heat back on under the zucchini and broad bean mixture and remove the garlic clove. Using a slotted spoon, take out the cooked pasta squares and add them to the pan, along with a little pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta through the vegetables for 1–2 minutes or until well coated with the sauce. Add a little more pasta cooking water if the sauce looks a bit dry.
Divide the pasta and vegetables among shallow bowls and top with a good dollop of ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil. Scatter over the lemon zest and mint leaves and finish with a grinding of pepper. Serve and enjoy!
• Sagne a pezze are also quite wonderful dressed with roasted tomato sugo or Abruzzese-style meat sauce.
Recipe and image from Silvia's Cucina, Silvia Colloca (Penguin, $39.99 pbk)