Macarons and I have had a tumultuous past. In that one time a few years ago I tried to make them and it was a miserable failure. I believe it was during Snowmaggedon here in DC and I was housebound for a few days. I always thought macarons were so beautiful, (at that point, I don’t think I had ever even tasted one) so I figured it was a worthy project for a snowday.
Well, macarons are a bit finicky. As it turns out, if you don’t have the right ingredients (i.e. almond flour) and no food processor (to make said almond flour), and trying to make homemade almond flour in a blender (hint: it doesn’t work very well), that things might not go your way.
Also, parchment paper and silpat mats are made for a reason. This is one of those reasons. Use them.
So a few weeks ago, I had a free afternoon so I decided to make another go of it. I’m older, and possibly a little bit wiser, so I figured I give them another shot. Plus, they’re so darn pretty!
Let’s be honest, this is a pretty involved process. Macarons take a while. But once you figure it out, the payoff is totally worth it.
A few notes:
I used almond flour from Trader Joe’s. It includes the dark brown shells from the almonds. This resulted to my macarons having a slightly flecked appearance.
I filled these with buttercream because it was convenient, which led the macarons to being a bit on the sweet side. Next time I make them, I’m going to try a chocolate ganache to tone it down a bit.
- 2Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
- Fine sea salt and black pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 large fresh bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 small red chili pepper, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- A small handful of pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons black olive tapenade
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- A few grates fresh nutmeg
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- 1/2 pound brick Greek feta cheese, drained and finely crumbled
- A handful each of flat leaf parsley and fresh mint, finely chopped
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Brown the lamb until it's a deep brown.
- Add a generous amount of salt and pepper, oregano, garlic, onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and red chili pepper and cook for 7-8 minutes until it's softened.
- Add the tomato paste and olives and stir for about 30 seconds.
- Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and then add the milk and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to a simmer and leave it while you make the pasta.
- In another large pot, cook the ziti until it is al dente. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water for later. Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in with half of the crumbled feta.
- Discard the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick from the ragu. Add the ragu to the pasta and stir, using the pasta water to help stir it.
- Serve with crumbled feta, mint, and parsley.