Now Open for Dinner on Mondays

Spinach pasta with Modenese sauce

La Gramigna con ragù Modenese
Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook Pasta Artigiana

Serves 6

This recipe is inspired by a dish that I tasted in one of my favourite places to eat in Italy, Trattoria Ermes in Modena. It is one of the simplest and most memorable meals that I have ever eaten.
Trattoria Ermes is a great 25-seat trattoria in one of the back streets of the city where you will find the most amazing traditional Modenese cooking. In this dish, ragù is simply at its best. At Pendolino, we make a dried version of gramigna (wild weed) pasta in our dedicated pasta kitchen. Gramigna pasta may be difficult to find outside of Italy and can be substituted with spinach fettucine or spinach tagliatelle, two other classic pastas used with ragù.

700 g (1 lb, 9 oz) Modenese sauce (see below)
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
600 g (1 lb, 5 oz) good quality dried gramigna pasta (or any other dried spinach pasta)
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese, to serve

Heat the Modenese sauce in a small saucepan. Check seasoning and adjust with the sea salt and black pepper, to taste. For the pasta, simply bring abundant salted water to the boil and cook until it is al dente. Strain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the sauce and mix. Check seasoning again and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese.

Modenese Sauce
Makes 700 g (1 lb, 9 oz)

50 g (1¾ oz) strutto (See Note)
1 celery stalk
1 medium carrot
1 small onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
50 g (1¾ oz) minced (ground) Italian pancetta or lardo
50 g (1¾ oz) minced (ground) cured Italian sausage, such as cacciatore
100 g (3½ oz) minced (ground) veal
100 g (3½ oz) minced (ground) pork
100 g (3½ oz) minced (ground) beef
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) good quality tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)
50 g (1¾ oz) tomato paste (concentrated purée)
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) beef broth (See below)

Heat the strutto in a saucepan and sauté the vegetables, bay leaf and garlic over medium heat until tender. Season with the sea salt and black pepper. Add the pancetta, Italian sausage and other minced meats. Cook over high heat, continually stirring, until the meat is broken into small pieces. Continue to cook, stirring until the meat is well browned and the juices have evaporated. Add the tomato passata, tomato paste and beef broth and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce sticking to the pan. Once the sauce is cooked, remove from the saucepan and refrigerate.

Note: Strutto is rendered pork lard. Nowadays, strutto is often substituted with olive oil or with a combination of olive oil and butter.

Beef broth

Makes approximately 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups)

2 kg (4 lb, 8 oz) beef bones and trimmings (see note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
100 g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
40 g (1½ oz) garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs


Preheat the oven to 150 C (300 F/Gas 2). Place the beef bones and trimmings in a roasting tin and bake until nicely browned (approximately 1-1½ hours). Heat the olive oil in a deep heavy-based frying pan and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until they are nicely browned.

Deglaze the roasting tin with some of the water, then add this with all the other ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and slowly simmer without a lid for 3-4 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate. If there is excess fat, it will solidify at the top of the refrigerated broth. Remove this with a spoon and discard before using the broth. Beef broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Note: Replace the beef bones with veal bones to make veal stock.

Buy Matching Wine