Rustic Grano Arso Pasta
This traditional Puglian pasta dish is sweeping the culinary world by storm! Try our rustic take on the dish for a cozy Italian dinner for 2.
- For the pasta (using the pasta maker):
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour, divided
- 70 g water
- For the chicken & cream sauce:
- 5 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Kosher Salt & Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 slices bacon
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Fresh basil, for garnish
- Step 1 Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle about 1 cup of flour evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet. Toast the flour for 30 minutes. Make sure to turn on your overhead fans if you have them, the oven will smoke!
- Step 2 In a medium bowl, add the grape tomatoes and garlic cloves. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes and garlic cloves in a baking dish, ensuring they are in just 1 layer. Roast for 20 minutes until they start to blister, and then stir.
- Step 3 Remove the tomatoes and flour from the oven (it should be a golden brown color) and cut about 2/3 cup of the toasted flour with remaining white flour (1 cup). Our pasta machine measures in grams so the cup is 200 g (about 1 2/3 cup flour). You want your proportion of grano arso to be about 1/3 of the measuring cup (or 70 g) – see photo below!
- Step 4 Put the flour into the pasta machine and add 70 grams of water to the mixing container. Turn on the desired pasta function to begin the mixing process. If you’re going to roll your pasta by hand, see the link below.
- Step 5 Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat remaining olive oil. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook until cooked through and no longer pink, 6-8 minutes per side. You want them to start to crisp up on the outside. Transfer to a cutting board and slice into strips.
- Step 6 In a second skillet cook bacon until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and drain, then chop into small pieces. Reserve half the bacon fat for step 8!
- Step 7 Start boiling a pot of salted water for your pasta. Cook until al dente, stirring occasionally (about 3 minutes). Strain pasta, reserving the water.
- Step 8 Add half of the reserved bacon fat to a nonstick skillet and add spinach to the same skillet. Season with salt and pepper, then add heavy cream, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup pasta water, then let simmer.
- Step 9 Add tomatoes and garlic, chicken, bacon and penne and toss until fully coated. Garnish with basil and serve.
This dish is one we’ve been dying to create ever since we discovered the “art” to this unique form of pasta. Grano arso (“burnt grain”) may not be familiar to you now, but I’m fairly confident it soon will be; word on the street is that it’s about to be all the rage on the restaurant scene. Marc first read about this traditional pasta making technique, native to Puglia, in a Bloomberg article of all places. He left it on my nightstand and kept reminding me to read it. Once I did, I was just as intrigued as he was. Fast forward to this past Monday night, when we put our heads together, crossed our fingers, and set out on a mission to create our very own recipe, using grano arso. Now that we’ve mastered the technique and perfected this dish, we could not wait to share it with you!
I don’t know about you, but I love learning more about the history when I set out to make new recipes like this, so here goes: Legend tells us that this grano arso pasta was known back in Italy as the pasta of the people, as it was associated with cucina povera, or “cuisine of poverty.” One theory suggests that poor families were accustomed to sweeping up the burnt remainders of grain from the field after the harvest (when the crops were burned) to make it; another theory is that poor Puglian villagers would sweep up the burnt flour from the bottom of communal wood-burning ovens. Whichever theory is true, the burnt flour would then be milled and incorporated into recipes for pasta or bread.
Since we clearly didn’t go back in time or in search of a communal oven, we instead toasted our flour in the oven for about 30 minutes and this is what it looked like:
Since burning the flour actually reduces the starch in the wheat and affects its ability to form gluten, it does need to be cut with all-purpose white flour, resulting in a flavor that is both earthy & nutty. Our ratio of grano arso to white flour was about 1:3:
We utilized our trusty Phillip’s paster maker, one of the gadgets that gets a LOT of love in our kitchen, although most recipes you’ll find for grano arso suggest making the pasta by hand. This is because of it’s brittle texture, which results from it being burned (or in our case, toasted). If you look closely in this photo you can see how crumbly it is. Marc equated it to almost feeling like graham crackers
We were surprised at how well the pasta turned out, so the recommended flour proportions should definitely be spot on. If you do plan to make it by hand, I would direct you to this Food Arts’ site, which has a great step by step explanation of how to roll the pasta. Then you can just skip ahead to step 4 above to make the rest of the dish.
Since I felt like this dish should somewhat be an homage to Puglia, I strove to embrace the flavors of this region. I included ingredients like the roasted grape tomatoes and garlic that are fundamentals of Puglian cuisine. I think you’ll find that the rustic flavors of the sauce are a perfect pairing for the grano arso. They really let the earthiness of the pasta shine through.