Piccolo: Damian Sansonetti’s Cavatelli Pasta with Lamb Ragout

  • Damien Sansonetti and his wife, Ilma Lopez, at Piccolo

Focusing on the more rustic cuisines of the Italian regions of Calabria and Abruzzo, Damian Sansonetti draws on family experience when preparing his signature Cavatelli Pasta with Lamb Ragout.

“I used to always make fresh pasta with my nana on my mom’s side,” Sansonetti says, “while on my dad’s side, the only thing my grandmother would actually allow my grandfather to cook, because she did all the rest, was lamb.” Sansonetti recalls the garden in the backyard bearing mint, garlic, and other herbs.

“There were always large quantities of olives,” Sansonetti tells me, “and the pungent aroma of great cheese wafting through the kitchen.”

For his dish, the lamb necks are deboned, and the meat is then ground and slow-cooked with spicy Calabrian chilies, red wine, herbs, and vegetables. Once the sauce has thickened and the flavors have deepened significantly, it is tossed with the fresh cavatelli and garnished with roasted eggplant, glazed fennel, toasted breadcrumbs, olives, orange, and mint. Sansonetti finishes the dish with delicate pecorino cheese from Abruzzo.

“The flavors of this dish come together and work harmoniously,” says Sansonetti, whose wife Ilma Lopez is the co-owner and pastry chef. “I love to make it.”

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