Prep: 4 hours
for the lamb bolognese:
12 to 14 ounces ground lamb
1 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup yellow onion, small dice
3 minced garlic cloves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with juices
1/2 cup chicken stock
15 ounces spinach garganelli (recipe below)
4 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for garnish
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
for the spinach pasta:
(makes 20 ounces)
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for cooking spinach
5 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 cups and 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
12 extra-large egg yolks
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon semolina flour, plus more for dusting
1. First, make the bolognese. In a large bowl, season the ground lamb with 1 teaspoon of salt and several turns of black pepper. Mix the meat and seasoning together to evenly distribute the salt and pepper.
2. Line a plate with paper towels. Place a medium (3-quart) saucepan over high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the ground meat. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into smaller pieces. Cook until the meat is browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the meat from the pan to the prepared plate. Repeat this process with the remaining meat. Set aside the browned meat.
3. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, chili flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook the onion mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and start to take on a slight golden color, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the tomato paste. Constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, cook the tomato paste until it is slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the browned lamb and stir to combine.
5. Add the white wine and cook until the wine evaporates completely, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the puréed tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. (The Bolognese can be made ahead to this point and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 2 weeks.) Bring to a simmer then keep over low heat before continuing.
6. Next, make the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water generously with salt. Blanch the spinach for 30 seconds. Remove the spinach with a spider or slotted spoon. Place the cooked spinach on a cooling rack or on a plate lined with paper towels. Pat the spinach dry with paper towels.
7. Transfer the spinach and olive oil to a blender. Process until the spinach forms a thick purée. If the spinach and/or the machine is not cooperating, add a splash or two of olive oil or water to get the spinach to purée (but ideally you will have as little liquid as possible in the purée). Measure 6 tablespoons of spinach purée for the pasta dough. Discard the remaining purée or save it for another use.
8. To make the pasta dough, place the 6 tablespoons of spinach purée, all purpose flour, egg yolks, semolina flour, and salt in a food processor. Process for a minute to combine the ingredients. Transfer the ingredients to a work surface and knead into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store refrigerated for 30 minutes.
9. Dust a baking sheet with semolina flour and set aside. Divide the pasta dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, dust the dough with all purpose flour. Roll through a pasta machine at the largest setting. Dust again with flour. Fold the dough lengthwise into thirds. Roll through the machine again. Repeat this process 1 to 2 more times.
10. Decrease the thickness setting by one notch. Roll the dough through the machine. Repeat this process, gradually decreasing the thickness until the pasta has gone through the second-to-last setting. Repeat the entire process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough.
11. To make the garganelli shape: Cut the sheet of dough lengthwise in half. Then cut the strips into 2-inch by 2-inch squares. Lay the pasta squares diagonally so that you're looking at a diamond shape. Lightly wet the top corner of one diamond. Working from the bottom point to the top, loosely roll each diamond over a dowel, chopstick, finger, or ballpoint pen. Press to seal at the end of the diamond. Gently remove the dowel from the pasta and place the pasta on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until all the pasta has been formed into little "quills." Store the garganelli uncovered in the refrigerator until ready to cook. If the pasta is not going to be served the same day, place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the garganelli is frozen solid (1 to 2 hours), transfer them to an airtight container. The pasta can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
12. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water generously with salt. Boil the spinach garganelli until al dente, about 4 minutes. Taste the pasta periodically to check if it is cooked but still chewy in the center. Transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce and gently stir to coat the noodles with the sauce. Reserve the pasta water.
13. Add 4 tablespoons grated Pecorino and the high-quality olive oil. Stir together, thinning the sauce with pasta water or simmering 1 to 2 minutes more to thicken as needed. Serve immediately in warm bowls, garnished with extra grated Pecorino if desired.