A traditional braided pasta recipe from Sardinia.
Of all the types of pasta we have made ourselves at home, I think these homemade lorighittas are the most beautiful. We served this unique braided pasta with chicken ragu which is actually the most traditional condiment for it in Sardinia, the only part of Italy where you will find lorighittas. Unless, like us, you make them yourself!
What are lorighittas?
Lorighittas is a type of handmade pasta unique to Sardinia. In fact, it’s mostly made in one particular Sardinian village called Morgongiori. There, women have been making these beautiful braided pasta rings since at least the 16th century! But, because this pasta is quite labour intensive it was traditionally made mostly for the village feast held on All Saints Day, on November 1st.
What does the word lorighittas mean?
There are several theories about how this pasta got its name. However, the most popular one is that it comes from the Sardinian word ‘lorigas’ meaning iron rings. Lorighittas look like the iron rings that were once attached to the walls of local houses to tie horses and oxen to. You can read more about the history and traditions behind this pasta on my Sardinian lorighittas post.
How to make semolina flour dough.
Lorighittas is a semolina flour and water pasta. Semolina flour is made from durum wheat (hard wheat). It’s the flour used to produce most of Italy’s dried pasta as well as traditional homemade pasta shapes in the South of the country. This flour is slightly coarser than soft wheat flour and pale yellow in colour.
Pasta from semolina flour usually holds its shape really well. This is because of the high gluten content. However, because of this you have to knead the dough longer than for soft wheat flour pasta to get it soft and pliable. Of course, you can use your stand mixer to do all the heavy work.
Just measure out the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the warm water a bit at a time and mix together until you have the beginnings of a dough. Then switch to the dough hook and knead on low for 10 minutes.
I made my dough by hand. I first mixed the flour and water in a bowl and then turned it out onto a pastry board to knead. Whichever method you use it’s important that the water is quite warm. Semolina flour is easier to work with warm water. You also need to add the salt to the water rather than the flour.
Save time, start the sauce while dough rests.
The dough for homemade lorighittas needs to be quite soft and supple. It’s okay if it’s a bit tacky but you don’t want it sticky! Once the dough is ready, it needs to rest for about 30 minutes before using it to make the lorighittas. This is a good moment to save some time and start on the ragu, although you can also do this once all the pasta is ready.
How to make the lorighittas.
Once you are ready to make the braided pasta rings, lightly dust your pastry board with semolina flour and then break off a small portion of pasta dough. Leave the rest covered.
Use your palms to roll and stretch the dough out into a thin rope/strands (about 3mm in diameter). Then take the strand and wrap it around your index, middle, and ring finger twice. Pinch off any excess dough and press the two loose ends together using your fingertips. Using the tips of your fingers, twist the two layers of dough around each other to make a braided ring.
Set your ready homemade lorighittas aside on a tray lightly dusted with semolina. I put mine on a traditional Sardinian basket which a friend gifted me some years back. But, a cookie sheet, tray or flat oven dish covered with dusted baking paper or a cotton kitchen towel also works well.
Finally, repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. If you’re having trouble intertwining the two rings, think of them as two circles. Hold one circle and take the other and thread it under and over the stationary circle a few times. Practice makes perfect! Don’t worry if your lorighittas are a bit thick, mine were. My hubby’s were better. Once all the lorighittas are shaped, you can let them dry a bit or cook them right away.
Making the free-range chicken ragu.
As I mentioned above this free-range chicken ragu is the traditional sauce for lorighittas. It’s quite easy to make and seriously delicious! I used two small free-range chickens weighing less than 500g each. I cut them into quarters. If you use one larger bird, you’ll need to cut it into smaller pieces.
Apart from the chicken, this ragu has onions, garlic, red wine and lots of herbs, plus tomato pulp (you can use passata). For the herbs, I used fresh parsley, basil, rosemary, sage and bay leaves. When possible fresh herbs are better. If you only have dried herbs reduce the quantity to about a flat teaspoon of each.
Pasta with chicken in Italy.
There aren’t many Italian pasta sauce or ragu recipes made with chicken. It’s just not very traditional. However, in the past, the rural population did use non-egg laying farmyard poultry in different dishes, particularly soups or broths which they often cooked pasta in.
The poultry in these recipes were usually birds like capons, stewing hens and roosters. In fact, originally this homemade lorighittas recipe calls for a free-range rooster or gallo ruspante. Ruspante means free-range but in the sense of a rooster from the countryside reared in a traditional way. These days we don’t categorize male and female chickens for meat. Both are used with very little difference between them.
A pasta you have to try!
The dough for this pasta requires quite a bit of kneading to get it to the right consistency and the braided rings take a bit of patience to get the hang of. But, although not as fine and perfect as the lorighittas the Sardinian women make, we were pretty happy with our homemade lorighittas. I would definitely recommend giving this pasta a try. It is so worth it! Plus the ragu is sensational.
Let me know what you think.
If you do try this homemade lorighittas with chicken ragu recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback means a lot to me!
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Homemade lorighittas with chicken ragu. A traditional recipe from Sardinia
For the semolina pasta dough
- 300 g durum wheat semolina flour (10.5 ozs)
- 2 ladles warm water
- 1 pinch salt
For the free-range chicken ragu
- 1 kg free-range chicken (2.2lbs) or 2 small ones cut into pieces
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and choppped
- 1 glass red wine
- 700 g tomato pulp or passata (1.5lbs)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 handful fresh basil
- 5 fresh sage leaves
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- 100 g Pecorino (3.5ozs)
Make your homemade lorighittas
- Boil some water, measure out 2 ladles, add a generous pinch of salt and let the water cool slightly. It still needs to be warm when making the dough. Put the semolina flour into a bowl, add the warm salted water a bit at a time whilst using your hand or a fork to mix the flour and water together. Once you have a ‘dough’ turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. I use a wooden pastry board. You may not need all the water as you don’t want it to be very wet.
- Continue to work and knead the dough until it is soft, supple and just slightly tacky. Roll it into a ball and then wrap it in a sheet of cling film or a cotton kitchen towel and let it rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
- When you are ready to make your lorighittas, cut off a small piece of the dough and stretch and roll it with the palms of your hands until you get a strand with a diameter slightly larger than a strand of bucatini. (also about the size of a US size 3/ UK size 10 knitting needle!) Don’t worry if a bit bigger. You’ll get better at it. Mine were quite thick. My hubby’s were better! The important thing is the strands don’t break.
- Roll the strand around the index, middle and ring fingers of one hand making two loops, join the two ends by pressing with your fingertips to obtain a double ring, then intertwine the two rings on themselves to obtain a single braided ring. (Hold the rings where they are joined then gently take one ring and weave it in and out the other). Repeat with the rest of the dough.
- Place the ready lorighittas on a floured tray or cotton kitchen towel until you have made them all.
Make the free-range chicken ragu
- Cut the chicken into relatively small pieces (quarters if using small birds). Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Chop the rosemary, parsley, basil and sage.
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a heavy pan (I used my Dutch oven) and brown the chicken pieces on both sides. You may have to do it in batches. Add the bay leaves, finely chopped onion, garlic and rosemary and continue cooking for a few minutes, then add the red wine and let the alcohol evaporate for a few moments.
- Add the tomato pulp/passata and a teaspoon of sugar, season with salt and pepper and cook covered over a low-medium heat for at least 1 hour. Once the chicken is cooked, add the coarsely chopped parsley, basil and sage to the sauce. Mix everything together. Cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the sauce before adding the cooked pasta.
Finish and serve.
- Add the pasta to a pot of boiling salted water. Stir gently to stop it sticking to the bottom and then wait for pasta rings to rise to the surface. Depending on the thickness of your lorighittas, they should be ready 2-3 minutes after rising to the surface. Try one before removing them all. You may have to cook the pastai n batches not to overcrowd the pot. In that case, remove the ready pasta from the water using a slotted spoon. Add it to the sauce and cook another batch.
- After adding the cooked pasta to the sauce. Mix carefully and plate with a chicken piece or two per person. Serve with grated Pecorino (preferably Pecorino Sardo)
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Other pasta recipes from Sardinia.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of my autumn/winter pasta recipes cookbook!?
Watch lorighittas being made in this video from Pasta Grannies