Crispy Skin Branzino with Silky Broccoli Raab

I love branzino. It is absolutely my favorite fish. Its flavor is clean and sweet, its flesh moist and firm. I love it roasted whole, stuffed with a rosemary sprig, some lemon slices, and a few garlic cloves; filleted and baked in parchment paper, with a splash of white wine and a handful of fresh herbs; sauteed into a simple tomato sauce for pasta; or, best of all, crisped on both sides in a hot skillet with nothing more than a veil of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

We eat crispy skin branzino at least once a week, sometimes flaking it into homemade corn tortillas for the best fish tacos imaginable, or simply drizzling it with lemon juice and olive oil on the plate.

Please don’t be intimidated at the thought of crisping branzino skin: it couldn’t be easier. You just need a hot nonstick skillet, a spatula, and 6 minutes to get dinner on the table.

Serves 2

For the branzino:

  • 2 branzino filets, skin on, scales and bones removed, rinsed and blotted dry
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the broccoli raab:

  • 1 large bunch broccoli raab, tough stems removed, washed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • water as needed

For the sauce:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or the small holes of a box grater

Make the branzino: Brush the branzino filets on both sides with the olive oil, and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the broccoli raab: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the broccoli raab and 1 tablespoon of the salt, and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and shock under cool water to stop the cooking, then gently squeeze dry with your hands. Place the olive oil, garlic, and chili in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the garlic is aromatic, after about 1 minute, add the broccoli raab. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until the broccoli raab is very soft and silky, adding a bit of water if needed to keep the broccoli raab moist. Keep warm.

Make the sauce for the branzino:  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside at room temperature until needed.

To serve:  Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and heat for 2 minutes; do not allow the skillet to heat so long  that it begins to smoke though, as nonstick skillets should never get too hot or they let out toxic fumes.

Place the branzino filets in the hot skillet, skin side down, and press with a spatula. Cook 3 minutes, or until the skin is dark and crispy but not burned. Flip and cook the other side for 2 minutes, or until the fish is nearly done, pressing once with a spatula. Flip one more time so the filets are skin side down in the skillet and cook just until they crisp up again and the fish is completely cooked; it will no longer be translucent or pearly, and should be firm to the touch.

Spoon some of the sauce for the fish on the plate, and set the branzino filets on top of the sauce, skin side up; if you place the fish skin side down, the crisp texture will be lost. Pile the broccoli raab next to the fish and serve hot.


Barley and Swiss Chard Soup

It’s supposed to be spring already, but today was a drizzly day after a long and snowy winter… soup was in order. I craved the silky texture of flash-cooked Swiss chard and the toothsome texture of barley, so here is the soup I came up with.  If you have escarole or spinach in the refrigerator, they work well in place of the chard.

Variation: To make this soup creamy in texture and a bit spicy, whisk together 2/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 grated garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, and 1 teaspoon crumbled dried mint, then stir into the soup just before serving.

Serves 2

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • leaves from 1 large bunch rainbow Swiss chard, thinly sliced (4 cups packed)

Place 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium-low heat until the onion is soft and barely golden, about 8 minutes, stirring once in a while to prevent the garlic from burning.

Add the broth, and bring to a gentle boil. Drop in the barley and season with the salt and pepper. Cook, covered, stirring once in a while, until the barley is fully cooked but not mushy, about 30 minutes.

When you are ready to serve, stir in the chard leaves, and cook until they are soft and wilted, about 3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.  Serve hot, drizzled with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. For extra richness, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.



Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Mussels in Tomato Sauce

The sweetness of mussels partners beautifully with the fresh scent of parsley in a simple tomato and white wine sauce. I love this seafood sauce with long pasta, preferably spaghettini, spaghetti, or, my absolute favorite, the square, long noodles known as spaghetti alla chitarra typical of  Abruzzo and Molise.

Be careful of any mussels (or clams, cockles, and other bivalves) that are open before cooking. If they appear open, tap them on the inside of a bowl to see if they close; if they close, they are alive and can safely be cooked, but if they do not close, discard them. Also be sure to discard any mussels that are still closed after cooking.

Serves 4

For the sauce:

  • 3 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped San Marzano canned tomatoes

For the pasta and to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti alla chitarra
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Make the sauce: Rinse the mussels several times to get rid of any surface grit, pull off any beards, then place in a deep bowl and cover with cool water. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and swirl with your hands to dissolve the salt in the water. Set aside to purge any sediment and grit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Remove the mussels from their soaking water by scooping them out with your hands, thereby avoiding disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the bowl. Rinse the mussels several times in cool water.

Place the mussels in a saucepan large enough to accommodate the pasta later. Add the wine and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pan once in a while, until the mussels yawn open, about 8 minutes. Uncover and cool 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.


Shell the mussels, reserving a few in the shell, and discard any mussels that have not opened. Strain the mussel cooking liquid through a sieve lined with a paper towel (or through a coffee filter) to get rid of any sediment. Set the strained liquid and the mussels aside. Rinse out and dry the saucepan.


Place the olive oil with the garlic, parsley, and chili in the clean saucepan  and warm gently over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes take on an orange hue. Stir in the mussels and the strained mussel cooking liquid, and bring to a gentle boil; cook 5 minutes.  Adjust the seasoning and keep warm.

When you are ready to serve, cook the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Toss the drained pasta and the parsley into the sauce. Sauté 1 minute over high heat to meld the flavors, thinning out the sauce as needed with some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve hot, drizzled with the olive oil.


Garnet Yam Gnocchi in Sage Butter Sauce

Gnocchi were my favorite pasta when  I was little.  I was especially fond of potato gnocchi in Gorgonzola sauce, which my mom made to perfection. Lately I’ve been making a lot of sweet potato and garnet yam gnocchi; maybe because in winter, I crave something a bit sweet, and using yams or sweet potatoes gives me an excuse to add a touch of freshly grated nutmeg to the dough. 

Whatever type of tuber you use (Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, garnet yams, regular yams, sweet potatoes), be sure to weigh the flesh after baking, before adding the specified amount of flour; that way, your gnocchi will emerge light and delicate, never heavy. And remember: gnocchi dough should never be kneaded, just mixed and gathered gently with your hands, or else you’ll end up adding more flour than necessary and your gnocchi will be heavy.

To learn how to make gnocchi in a hands-on cooking class with me, and to really understand what the correct texture is for handmade gnocchi, check out our cooking class calendar: we feature handmade gnocchi of every variety (even Ricotta) about once a week or so!


Serves 4

For the gnocchi:

  • 3 medium garnet yams (about ¾ pound each), scrubbed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (4 ounces or 130 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the tray and counter

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To cook and serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Make the gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 350°F (preferably set on convection).

Place the yams on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, poke each with a fork once or twice to prevent bursting, and roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Place the flesh  in a  bowl. Weigh out exactly 1 pound and reserve the rest for another use.

Using a ricer, puree the yam flesh directly onto the counter.


Stir in the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.


Add the flour and mix with your hands until a dough forms.



The mixture should form a soft, cohesive mass; add a little more flour if the dough is very sticky. Stop mixing once you see no more white streaks in the dough.

Cut into 8 pieces. Dust each piece with flour. With lightly floured hands, gently roll each piece into a 1-inch-thick log. The dough will be soft, but resist the temptation to add more flour unless the dough is really sticky; also be sure not to knead the dough, or else it will require additional flour.


Cut into 1-inch pieces, toss gently with flour, and spread out in a single layer on a floured tray. (The gnocchi can be made up to this point 12 hours ahead, spread out in a single layer on a floured tray, and refrigerated, uncovered, until ready to cook.) Be sure the gnocchi are not touching each other because the dough is soft and rather sticky.

If you’re nervous that the gnocchi are too soft, try boiling just one or two at this point; that way, if they seem too soft once cooked, or fall apart in the water, you can adjust by adding a touch of flour to firm them up.



Make the sauce: Melt the butter with the sage, salt, and pepper in an 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat until aromatic. Keep warm.

To cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a very gentle boil. Add the gnocchi and the salt, and cook until the gnocchi float to the surface,a bout 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to a wide, shallow platter, reserving 1 cup of the gnocchi cooking water.

Add 1/2 cup of the gnocchi cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and swirl once or twice to combine.  Pour over the gnocchi in the platter and mix gently with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle with the  Parmigiano, and stir gently to incorporate. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If needed, thin the sauce out with a bit of the gnocchi cooking water. Serve hot.


Slow-Roasted Swiss Chard Stems with Parmigiano

Many people are stumped as to what to do with Swiss chard leaves: they use the leaves, and discard the stems. Swiss chard stems are delicious in salad, or even roasted.

After trimming your Swiss chard stems (see below), wash well, chop coarsely, and cook for 5 minutes in boiling water before dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and slivered garlic; or boil as whole stems and roast under a layer of béchamel sauce and a dusting of Parmigiano at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Or, simpler and healthier still, try the recipe below, for slow-roasted Swiss chard stems with just a dusting of Parmigiano.

Check out our recipe for Pasta Gratin with Swiss Chard, Fontina, and Nutmeg to use up your Swiss chard leaves now that you’ve used the stems!

Serves 2

  • Stems from 2 bunches Swiss chard (I prefer rainbow chard for its vibrant colors)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano


Preheat the oven to 325° (preferably set on convection).

To prepare Swiss chard stems for cooking, wash well, then take a paring knife and cut off the bottom half-inch or so from each stem, and without releasing the knife, pull up to “peel” each stem, effectively removing a thin outer layer of fibrous strings.



Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the stems and 1 teaspoon of the salt, and stir well. Cover and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, or just until the stems are tender when pierced with a knife; they should not be falling apart.


Drain and cool under running water. Blot dry on paper towels and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with the olive oil and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Dust with the Parmigiano.

Lay another sheet of parchment paper over the stems and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the stems are golden and soft.  (If you do not have parchment paper, cover with aluminum foil; the stems need to be covered while roasting or they will dry out.) Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with White Truffle Oil & Crispy Bacon

This amazing soup takes little active work, is very low in fat and calories, but delivers incredible depth of flavor. The trick: sweating the vegetables in a covered pot slowly, then adding just a bit of flour to thicken up the base for a velvety mouth-feel. While an immersion blender may be easier to use than a blender, I prefer the latter to obtain a rich, creamy texture.

Feel free to omit the bacon for a completely vegetarian dish;  garnish with a few roasted cauliflower florets instead in this case, to provide visual contrast.

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 4 cups (1 medium head) cauliflower florets, tough stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to serve
  • 3 cups 2% or whole milk
  • 1 cup water, plus extra as needed
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into tiny dice
  • 2 tablespoons white truffle oil

Place the olive oil, onion, celery, garlic, and thyme in a 3-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and set over medium-low heat. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while as needed to prevent scorching.

Uncover, add the cauliflower, stir well, and cover again. Cook until the cauliflower softens, about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while and adding water if needed to prevent scorching.

Uncover, stir in the flour, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often; the flour should lose its raw smell and the cauliflower and vegetables should become coated with the flour. It is fine if the cauliflower and vegetables take on a little color; this will only deepen the flavor of the soup.

Season with the salt and pepper. Pour in the milk, stirring to avoid lumps forming. Add the water and cover. Bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft (it should fall apart when poked with a spoon) and the flavors have melded. Be sure not to cook the soup over too high a flame, as the milk may curdle (even if it does, the soup will be blended later, so it is fine).

Transfer to a blender, being careful as the soup is quite hot. Cover the blender lid with a towel to prevent splashing and puree the soup  until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add as much water as needed to dilute to a consistency you like; the soup should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Return to the pot and keep warm. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

When you are ready to serve, place the diced bacon in a skillet and cook over medium heat until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the soup hot, drizzled with the truffle oil, garnished with the crispy bacon, and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.


Escarole and Sausage over Crispy Bread with Melted Cheese

This is a delicious, one-dish meal that my husband and I crave when the weather is cold and our energy is dragging.  Try broccoli raab instead of escarole, or simply omit the sausage for a vegetarian version. But whatever you do, buy really good bread, because the bread’s texture and taste unify all the ingredients into a beguiling whole. We buy flat Turkish bread from the Taskin bakery in New Jersey when we don’t have our own leftover focaccia.

A word on Kashkaval: this is a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese typical of Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. I grew up enjoying it thanks to my Romanian-born mother. It is available in most well-stocked cheese shops, and ranges from milky and just  a tad sharp when aged a few months, to salty and almost crumbly when aged longer. For this dish, select the younger Kashkaval, as it will melt better and won’t overwhelm the other flavors. If Kashkaval is not available, use a good quality imported Fontina from Val d’Aosta, or another mild melting cheese of your liking.

Serves 2

For the sausage and escarole:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound  spicy Italian sausages with fennel seeds, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) escarole leaves, washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the bread:

  • 4 cups cubed Italian focaccia or other neutral flatbread
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound fresh Mozzarella (preferably bufala), drained and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 ounces young Kashkaval or Fontina from Val d’Aosta, rind removed if needed and coarsely grated


Make the sausage and escarole: Place the olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, and chili  in a wide pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Warm gently over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the crumbled sausage and cook 10 minutes,  stirring often, or until the sausage is nicely browned all over. Add the escarole, season with the salt and pepper, and cover.


Cook 10 minutes, stirring once in a while, or until the escarole softens and collapses and releases its liquid; the liquid is essential to this dish, so keep the lid on. Remove from the heat until you are ready to serve.


Make the bread: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (preferably set on convection). On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the cubed bread with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the bread just begins to take on a golden color and starts to get a bit crunchy here and there; do not toast it all the way through, or the dish will be dry,  as the bread has to bake a second time with the cheese.


Scatter the Mozzarella and Kashkaval on top of the toasted bread.


Return to the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the bread finishes toasting and browning, and the cheeses melt.

To serve: Reheat the sausage and escarole. Spoon one-quarter of the hot bread and cheese mixture onto each of 2 plates. Top each with one-quarter of the hot escarole and sausage mixture, then another layer of the bread and cheese mixture, and finally the remaining escarole and sausage mixture. Pour any pan juices from the escarole and sausage over the finished plates and serve hot.

Garganelli with Red Wine and Two-Meat Ragu

This simple, savory ragu combines my favorite elements of a classic Bolognese ragu (the milk and red wine) with my favorite elements of a southern Italian-style ragu (the spicy sausage and garlic).

If you have a rind from a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano on hand, throw it into the ragu pot to lend additional richness, then remove it before tossing with the pasta.

See our recipe for handmade garganelli

Serves 4

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced  (1/4 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 basil leaves or 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • ¾ pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano (optional)

For the pasta and to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound garganelli (see recipe below)
  • ¼ pound freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Make the ragù: Place the olive oil, onion, garlic, and basil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the sausage and beef, and cook until browned all over, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Be sure to let the meat develop a deep brown color at this stage, or the ragu will taste flabby instead of rich.

Add the wine and then, after 5 minutes, the broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. If you have a cheese rind, add it at this point and make sure it is fully submerged in the liquid.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat 1 and ½ hours, making sure the sauce never scorches and adding a bit of water as needed to the pan. Discard the bay leaf and the cheese rind. Adjust the seasoning and keep the sauce warm. (The sauce can be made up to this point 2 days in advance; refrigerate until needed, then warm gently before proceeding.)

Make the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta, and  cook until al dente; drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the sauce and sauté over high heat for 1 minute. Stir in the Parmigiano, and add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if needed to thin out the sauce. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot.

The Best Pasta Sauces: Micol’s New Cookbook!

SNEAK PREVIEW OF MICOL’S BOOK! The recipe for Amatriciana Sauce from Micol’s new cookbook is now available online! Be sure to check it out by clicking the image below

I’m very excited to announce that Ballantine Books (a division of Random House) just released my third cookbook, THE BEST PASTA SAUCES:  Favorite Regional Italian Recipes. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this book, and the process allowed me to discover some incredibly delicious specialties from every region of Italy. There is mouth-watering color photography throughout; the book is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

The Best Pasta Sauces

It was hard to decide which recipes to include; there are so many pasta treasures across Italy!! But in the end, I narrowed the selection down to the 80 recipes I felt best represented the diverse sauces of Italy’s regions. Some are classics, of course, like pesto, amatriciana, puttanesca, and ragu, but others are little-known outside Italy. In fact, there were some recipes that were eye-opening even for me (and I’ve eaten and cooked a lot of pasta over the years!!), like the Crushed Potato Sauce with Cracked Black Pepper and Olive Oil from the Marches (I never thought about boiling potatoes to create a clean vegetal puree with which to sauce pasta!), the Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce with Bread Crumbs from Apulia (I usually simmered tomato sauces on the stove for my pasta, never roasted them), and the Parmigiano Sauce with Fresh Nutmeg from Piedmont (what a difference the nutmeg makes!).

Not only did I love testing the recipes—who wouldn’t love eating a different delicious pasta every day?—I also really enjoyed working on the photography with my husband Dino; we styled the food together, and Dino took amazing photographs that make my mouth water every time I look at them (and I’ve looked at them a lot!).

The book also includes tips for cooking pasta perfectly and for saucing it with success every time; there are 5 basic recipes indispensable to any home cook; sidebars sprinkled throughout about our travels in Italy, essential Italian ingredients, and more; and wine pairings by RUSTICO COOKING’s Wine Director, Costas Mouzouras.

Hopefully the book will inspire you to try new sauces and to experiment with different ingredients and flavors… I look forward to hearing which recipes you try!

Available in bookstores, from Rustico Cooking, and from online sellers including:

Handmade Garganelli

Garganelli are hardly well known outside Italy, but they deserve to be! This ridged, tubular pasta is likely the ancestor of penne, made by winding 1 and 1/2 inch squares of fresh pasta around a small wooden dowel onto a ridged board. Garganelli are typical of Romagna, in northern Italy, and the dough is often made with egg, soft wheat (as opposed to semolina or durum wheat) flour, a hint of nutmeg, and grated Parmigiano; some cooks even color and flavor their garganelli with spinach puree. The most common way to sauce garganelli is a beef and pork ragu, a slow-simmered sausage sauce, or a simple sauce of Prosciutto, peas, and cream. I love garganelli with any chunky, meaty sauce, or even with a hearty vegetable sauce featuring seasonal vegetables.

Garganelli derive their name to the dialect word garganel (the oesophagus of chicken, which they are said to resemble in shape).  In the small town of Codrignano, there is a yearly Sagra del Garganello (Feast of Garganelli) in early September, a way for local cooks to celebrate their most emblematic pasta.

If you would like to try making garganelli at home, it really isn’t that difficult, and all you need is patience, a pencil, and a fine- tooth comb. For better results, though, I suggest you buy a garganelli board from to make this pasta, as it is much easier to get pronounced lines and a consistent shape with a proper garganelli board. You can make the garganelli up to a day ahead and refrigerate them, or you can freeze them if you wish; if frozen, do not defrost before dropping into boiling water.


Makes 1 pound

  • 2 and ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 large eggs

Make the garganelli: Mix the flour, salt, nutmeg, and Parmigiano on a counter. Make a well in the center and add the eggs; work the flour mixture into the eggs, adding a touch of water if it is too dry or a touch of flour if it is too moist. Knead for 8 minutes, or until perfectly smooth. Wrap in plastic; let rest 30 minutes.


Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 pieces in plastic and roll one piece out onto a floured counter into a 1/12”-thick sheet (or use a pasta machine to do this). Cut the sheet into 1 and 1/2” squares. Place one square on a garganelli board, arranged like a diamond rather than a square, near the top of the board. Place the small wooden dowel perpendicular to the garganelli board near the top of the pasta diamond. Using your index, lift the top edge of the pasta diamond down over the wooden dowel, and then roll the wooden dowel along the board to seal the pasta around the dowel. Do not apply too much pressure or the pasta will not release from the dowel.

Gently push the pasta off the dowel. Repeat with the remaining dough.  Spread the garganelli out on a floured baking sheet and cover with a towel until needed. The garganelli can be shaped up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, but they will dry out and lose their silky texture. The ragù can be made up to 2 days ahead and reheated as you boil the garganelli.

See our recipe for Red Wine and Two-Meat Ragu, which pairs beautifully with handmade garganelli.