Dante Bernardis uses the name Blasut both for himself and for his restaurant in Lavariano, a Friuli farmland town. Dante makes this pasta sauce with young roosters, which are tastier than hens. To achieve comparable flavor with what is available in the meat counter of most markets, I have used chicken thighs, the tastiest part of the bird. The liberal use of herbs, unusual in most Italian cooking, makes the sauce intensely aromatic and endows it with a depth of flavor that one generally associates with game. It is excellent on sturdy pasta shapes, such as penne.
Servings: 6 Enough sauce for 6 servings of pasta
- 4 chicken thighs, about 1 1/2 pounds
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup onion, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup carrot, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 7 large or 10 small fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups tomatoes cut up with their juice, using either ripe, firm, fresh plum tomatoes, peeled raw, split and seeds scooped out OR canned imported San Marzano Italian tomatoes
- A mixture of 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves and 3 to 4 strips of lemon peel, just the yellow skin with none of the white pith beneath, chopped together fine
Remove the skin and all the fat from the chicken thighs, wash them in cold running water, and cut all the flesh away from the bone. Grind the meat fine in a food processor or a meat grinder.
Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in a medium skillet, turn on the heat to medium high, and cook the onion, stirring from time to time, until it is colored a light gold.
Add the chopped carrot and celery and cook for a minute or so, turning the vegetables over from time to time to coat them well.
Add the ground chicken, increase the heat, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, turning the meat over frequently.
Add salt, pepper, the mint leaves and the white wine, turning over the contents of the skillet two or three times.
When the wine has bubbled away, add the tomatoes, turn over the contents of the skillet, and lower the heat. Let the tomatoes cook at a gentle but steady simmer in the uncovered pan for 30 to 45 minutes, until, when you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, the fat following the spoon's trail runs clear.
Add the mixture of chopped rosemary, sage and lemon peel, turn it over with the contents of the skillet to distribute it thoroughly, and cook at a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.
Ahead-of-time note: You can cook the sauce a day or two in advance. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.
"Marcella Says . . . Italian Cooking Wisdom From the Legendary Teacher's Master Classes, With 120 of Her Irresistible New Recipes" (HarperCollins, 2004), by Marcella Hazan.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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