This week’s parsha is B’shalach, which tells the climatic final chapter of the Exodus: the Israelites’ nighttime crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh and his chariots. The Italian Jews have a special recipe they make this Shabbat called Pharaoh’s Wheel, a pasta baked into a round pan and filled with nuts, raisins, and meat. Unlike the flat, plain matzah of Passover, the lekhem oni of slaves, Pharaoh’s Wheel is a dish to be tasted in freedom.
I remember to make Pharaoh’s Wheel every few years, and it is always greeted with celebration, along with the realization that I still don’t own a round oven-proof dish (Pharaoh’s Brick, anyone?). This year, I was proud to be able to make it with grass-fed, ethically slaughtered kosher meat.
Pharaoh’s Wheel (Ruota Di Faraone)
Homemade pasta made with 4 eggs and 2.5-3 cups flour (or 1 pound dry pasta–adjust recipe accordingly)
6 quarts water
3 tablespoons salt
3 cups meat sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cups (or more) diced pickled tongue, beef salami, or beef sausage
oil or schmaltz
1/2-1 cup raisins (optional)
1/2-1 cup almonds (optional)
1/2-1 cup pine nuts (optional)
Roll dough not too thin and fold as you would for a jelly roll, 2 1/2″ wide. Cut 1/6″ wide slices and toss to unfold noodles. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add tagliolini and salt; when boiling resumes, cook for 1 minute.
Drain and place in a large bowl with meat sauce, diced colds cuts, and nuts and raisins if using. Toss quickly to distribute sauce.
Place in a round oven-proof baking dish, well greased. Bake in 350 oven for 1-1.5 hours, or until a nice crust is formed. Serves 6-8.
Meat Sauce (Sugo di Carne)
1/2 cup olive or corn oi
1-2 medium onions, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
2-3 springs Italian parsley, chopped finely
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup tomato paste
1.5 cups beef stock or water
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery, and parsley, and lightly brown for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add meat and brown thoroughly, stirring frequently.
Add the wine and raise the heat to allow it to boil for a few minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add stock or water and cook, covered, over very low heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste. Sauce should be thick. If it is too watery, cook a few minutes longer.
Adapted from The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews by Edda Servi Machlin.