It is said in France that the goat is the cow of the poor; in Italy one might say that the cow of the lower central and southern regions, for both rich and poor, is lamb. The cheeses are made from sheep’s milk and the meats that you are likely to find in the cooking are those of both young lamb and castrato, an older gelded animal. In Abruzzi, it is the latter that would be used, making this a sauce for which the larger, older lamb of American markets is a natural choice.
The deep, intense flavor of lamb sets this apart from other classic meat sauces, and so does the fact that the meat is not ground up but cut into small pieces and cooked as though it were a stew. It leads to an earthier, more substantial pasta dish than most, an ample serving of which could well constitute a one-course meal.
In Abruzzi they toss lamb ragù with the square homemade noodle known as maccheroni alla chitarra, cut on the steel strings of a tool that looks like a guitar. You can duplicate it at home by following the instructions for tonnarelli. Maccheroni alla chitarra are sometimes found in boxed dry form, but other boxed dry pastas, such as penne or maccheroncini, are also quite delicious with this sauce.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.