This dish was traditionally done with raw egg yolk, but I like to slightly poach mine. An alternative is to actually poach the egg yolk in a strainer and serve them on top of the pasta; let the diner break it and toss it with the pasta.
Makes 6 servings
For Skewer Maccheroni for 6:
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cup semolina flour
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups tepid water, or as needed
For Pancetta, Onion and Black Pepper Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, sliced (about 3 cups)
1 cup julienned (1/4 x 1/4 x 1 1/2-inch) bacon or pancetta
1 cup chicken stock, canned chicken broth or pasta cooking water
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
2/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
6 egg yolks (optional)
Prepare the skewer maccheroni
In a bowl stir the two flours together until blended. Pile the flour mixture into a mound on a marble or wooden surface. Form a well in the center of the mound all the way down to the surface. Place beaten eggs and salt in the well. Gradually pour in 1 cup of the water, beating constantly with a fork until well blended. Continue beating the egg mixture, gradually working the flour from the sides of the well into the egg mixture. As you work, the egg mixture will become thick and the size of the well will expand.
Continue beating until there is just a thin ring of flour around the egg mixture and the dough becomes too stiff to mix with a fork. If the dough becomes too thick to mix with a fork before the flour is almost all incorporated, drizzle a tiny amount of the remaining warm water over the egg mixture and continue mixing. It is possible you will not need any additional water. Work the remaining flour into the dough with your hands, just until a rough, firm dough is formed. Rub your hands together to remove as much of the dough as possible, and add that to the rest of the dough. Shape the dough into a rough ball and set it aside.
Sprinkle your hands liberally with flour, rubbing them together to remove any remaining scraps of dough from your skin. With a knife, loosen any dough and flour from the work surface. Pass these scrapings through a sieve and discard the scraps in the sieve. Make sure your hands are clean and flour them lightly.
Knead the dough, using the sieved flour--and more all-purpose flour if necessary-- to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and the surface.
Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least one hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature at least 1 hour before rolling and shaping.
To shape these maccheroni, you will need square stainless steel skewers, preferably with no handles. Cut the dough in 10 pieces. Work with one piece of dough at a time and keep the other pieces covered. By applying light pressure and a gentle back-and-forth motion with the palm of your hands, roll each piece of dough in a long cylinder about 3/8 inch wide, about the diameter of a pencil. Let the rolled out dough rest at least 5 minutes before continuing.
Cut each cylinder into 1-inch lengths and align 3 to 4 of these pieces equidistant from each other with their long sides toward you on a lightly floured wooden or marble surface. (You may find it easier to start with one length of the dough at first, working up to 3 or 4 as you get the knack.)
Press the lightly floured skewer on all dough pieces at once and with both hands move the skewer in a rocking motion back and forth while applying light pressure. The dough will wrap around the skewer and extend at the same time. If your skewer has a looped handle, make sure that the handle extends over the side of the work surface so it doesn't interfere with a smooth rocking motion. When maccheroni are about 1 1/2 inches long and wrapped around the skewer, pick up one end of the skewer, tap lightly on the surface and gently slide the maccheroni off. Line the finished maccheroni on a lightly floured towel, without touching. Repeat with the remaining dough.
In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook the maccheroni for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on whether or how long the pasta was dried before cooking. If you would like to serve an egg yolk over each serving, heat a 3-quart pot of water to a simmer.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large (about 12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until the onions are wilted but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and adjust the heat to simmering. Simmer 3 minutes.
Drain the maccheroni, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Return the maccheroni to the pot, place over medium-low heat and add the sauce and the black pepper. If you plan to serve the egg yolks over the pasta, place them in the pot of gently boiling water and cook exactly 3 minutes. The yolks with be firm enough to lift from the water, but still quite runny in the center.
If necessary, add enough of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pasta to make a creamy sauce that lightly coats the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the grated cheese and divide the pasta among 6 serving bowls. To serve the egg yolks, lift them from the water with a small slotted spoon and place carefully crack open an egg and spoon out the yolk over the pasta. Repeat with the remaining yolks.
Note: Orecchiette, maccheroni inferrattati and malloreddus can be made a day in advance and dried completely. Turn them once or twice as they dry. Arrange them in a single layer on floured baking sheets in the freezer until the pasta is completely frozen. When frozen, collect them in sealable freezer bags and store. Like all fresh pasta that has been frozen, they should be taken directly from the freezer to boiling water, without defrosting first.
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