For the pasta:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup very cold water, or as needed
For the sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon shredded fresh sage leaves, packed to measure (4 to 6 leaves)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt, plus more to cook the makaruni
2 pounds fresh chanterelles and/or mixed fresh mushrooms, such as porcini, shiitake, cremini, and common white, cleaned and sliced
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups hot light stock (chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth), or more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
A food processor fitted with metal blade
A dough cutter and trays for the makaruni
A heavy-bottomed sauté or saucepan, 13-inch diameter, with a cover
A large pot for cooking the makaruni
Serves 6 as a first course or 4 as a main course
Makaruni with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Makaruni are traditional in Istria, a kind of pasta made when there was no time to roll, cut, and shape it. Rolling little pieces of dough between the palms of one's hands was quick and effective.
My grandmother and other women of her generation were expert makaruni-makers. In no time, they would take a big batch of pasta dough and turn it into slim little noodles. Instead of rolling the bits of dough back and forth for a second or two, my grandmother could compress and stretch a piece of dough into a perfect makaruni with one swipe of her hands—and flick it right onto her floured tray in the same movement.
Forming makaruni is truly simple, and once you start rolling, you'll quickly become proficient. Today, as when I was a child, the whole process is fun, so get the family to help and the makaruni will be done fast. And in a few minutes you'll enjoy the great taste and texture of your handiwork.
This delicious sauce is traditionally made with gallinacci, or chanterelles, though other mushrooms can be used. Makaruni are also wonderful with the amatriciana sauce of tomato and bacon on page 228.
To mix the makaruni dough, put the flour and salt in the food processor and blend for a few seconds. Beat the eggs with a fork, then mix with the water in a spouted measuring cup. Start the food processor running, and pour in the liquids through the feed tube. Process for 30 to 40 seconds, until a soft dough forms and gathers on the blade. If it doesn't and is wet and sticky, process in more flour in small additions. If it is dry and stiff, process in more cold water, by spoonfuls. Turn out the dough and knead it briefly, until smooth and stretchy. Form into a round, cover it in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
To make makaruni, cut off a lemon-sized lump of dough; wrap the rest in plastic. Lightly flour the work surface, and have a floured tray close by. Pinch off six or so marble-sized bits of dough. Roll each between your palms, back and forth, into a strand about 2 inches long, and drop it on the floured tray.
The makaruni won't be uniform, so don't worry if some are fatter and shorter or skinnier and longer. Cut more small bits for rolling, as needed, keeping most of the dough wrapped. Occasionally flour and toss the rolled strands and separate them on the tray, spaced apart in one layer so they don't stick together.
To make the mushroom sauce, pour the olive oil into the large sauté pan, and set over medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic, cook until sizzling, then scatter in the sliced onion and shredded sage leaves. Stir well, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until the onion is softened and sizzling. Add the sliced mushrooms, sprinkle on 1 teaspoon salt, and tumble the mushrooms over and over with a big spoon, mixing them with the onion and oil.
Cover the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are wilted and bubbling in their own juices. Uncover, raise the heat, and cook, tossing and stirring, to evaporate almost all the liquid. Clear a spot on the pan bottom, drop in the tomato paste, and stir it in the spot for a minute or so, until toasted and fragrant, then stir it all around the pan, to blend with the mushrooms and onions as they caramelize.
Pour in 1 cup of the hot broth, salt again, stir well, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and cook at a bubbling simmer, stirring now and then, until the liquid has cooked down and the sauce is very thick. Stir in another 1/2 cup broth, and cook again until quite concentrated. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup broth, and cook now to a nice saucy consistency, dense but flowing. The addition of and cooking in broth should take about 15 minutes total. If the mushrooms are not tender, stir in more broth and cook them longer. Adjust the sauce seasonings, adding more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and stir in the chopped parsley.
Meanwhile, heat 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil in the large pot. Shake the makaruni in a colander to remove excess flour, and dump them into the pot. Stir well, and return to the boil. At first the makaruni will drop to the bottom of the pot, then rise to the surface of the water. Check for doneness by tasting and cook until just al dente, about 3 minutes or more at the boil.
Bring the mushroom sauce back to a simmer—if it has thickened, loosen it with pasta-cooking water. Lift out the makaruni with a spider, drain briefly, and drop them onto the sauce. Over low heat, toss together until the pasta is fully dressed and cooked. Turn off the heat, and toss in the grated cheese. Serve immediately in warm pasta bowls.