Nick Stefanelli, the executive chef/owner of Masseria in Washington, DC, learned to make this dish from Domenica Marchetti. The name translates to "the miller's wife's pasta" and refers to a time when the area was dotted with flour mills and wives turned the flour that their husbands milled into a meal fit for royalty.
Slideshow: More Pasta Recipes
2 to 3 cups "00" pasta flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup tepid water
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces ‘ndjua
1 large eggplant, fried (see note)
2 cups tomato sauce
1 small bunch basil, leaves picked
4 ounces ricotta salata, grated
How to Make It
Step 1 make the pasta
Pile the flour into a mound on a clean work surface, reserving a little to add in if the dough is too wet. Make a well in the center of the mound and break the egg into it. With a fork, break the egg yolk and begin to work in the flour from the inside wall of the well. Then start pouring the tepid water, a little at a time, into the well and continue to work the flour into the egg mixture until it has a batter-like consistency. Work carefully so that you don't break the wall of flour, which would allow the egg mixture to run out and make things messy. [If that happens, don't panic; use the palm of your hand to scoop up the escaped liquid and work it back toward the flour.]
Use your hands to draw the remaining flour over the thickened egg mixture and mix until you have a soft dough. As you work, you will determine whether you need to add more flour to prevent the dough from being sticky or more water to moisten it if it seems dry. You are aiming for a fairly pliable dough that you can knead easily.
Knead the dough using the palm of your hand, push the dough gently but firmly away from you and then fold it over toward you. Rotate the dough a quarter-turn and repeat the pushing and folding motion. Continue kneading for several minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky. Form the dough into a ball, cover it with an overturned bowl and let it rest for about 20 minutes. [Then knead it once more for several minutes, re-cover it and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. The second kneading and resting are essential to achieve the light dough necessary for this unique, thick noodle.]
Cover a large space with a clean tablecloth and sprinkle the cloth with flour. This is where you will put the pasta once it is shaped. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a round, slightly flattened bun. Cover 3 of the pieces with a clean dishtowel.
Flatten the remaining bun into a thick disk. Pick it up and use your finger to poke a hole through the center. Working a couple of fingers into the hole, begin to stretch the pierced disk into a fat ring, like a bagel. Gently stretch the ring until it is large enough for you to fit both hands through it: 6 to 8 inches wide in the center.
Begin to roll the ring into an even, ever-growing loop on the lightly floured work surface. Your aim is to end up with a very long loop about the thickness of your pinkie finger, always working carefully so you don't break the circle. Take your time working your way around the loop as it grows longer, keeping the thickness more or less uniform. When you finish, the loop will be very long and rather unwieldy. Pick up the loop with one hand, and with your other hand start wrapping it into a loose coil, as you would a rope. Sprinkle a small mound of flour on your work surface and carefully coat the coil with the flour to prevent it from sticking. Pick up the coil and gently grasp and pull it to stretch it; not too much, just several rotations, to lengthen the coil further. Coat it once more with flour and place it on the floured cloth.
Place a large pot of water to boil. Once it has boiled, add salt. The water should have salinity levels similar to seawater. Place the pasta in the water and stir every 2 minutes or so as you prep the sauce. The pasta takes 8 to 10 minutes to cook.
Step 8 make the pasta sauce
Place a pot over medium to high heat and wait until the pot is hot, but not scorching. Add the olive oil and the ‘ndjua. With a wooden spoon, start to break the ‘ndjua up into smaller pieces as the fat renders out into the olive oil. Once the ‘ndjua has taken a light color and is slightly crispy, add the fried eggplant and stir. Once the temperature has come back up, add the tomato sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Check to see if the pasta is done. Once the pasta is cooked, add the drained pasta to the sauce with a little bit of the pasta cooking water. Let this cook together for another 1-2 minutes. Finish with fresh basil and plate. Top each of the bowls with freshly grated ricotta salata. If desired, add salt to season.
To fry the eggplant, fill a bowl with salted water. Cut 1 large eggplant into 1/4-inch pieces and soak in the water. This will prevent the eggplant from discoloring and help remove some of the bitterness. Place in a large pot filled with sunflower oil at a temperature of 350 degrees. Fry until golden brown. Take a strainer spoon and pull the eggplant from the excess oil. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
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