The word probably comes from a combination of the Mayan chocol and the Axtec word cacahuatl. The Spanish conquistadors didn’t like the idea of drinking a warm brown beverage that sounded like caca, so they had the good sense to blend the words into the name “chocolate.”
And who doesn’t enjoy a nice chocolate every now and then? Hence the problem: the world now eats more cocoa than it can grow. Half of the world’s cocoa production now comes from West Africa. Before the industrial revolution, most came from Central and South America, where it was on the drink list for almost 4,000 years.
The Europeans figured out how to make it into solid, and then how to craft dark, milk, and white varieties. Of course the Italians figured out how to cut it into pasta. In this form, unsweetened cocoa powder adds a slightly bitter chocolate taste to the pasta. The pairing with pork ragu makes a unique and hearty dish.
Go for a gelato di cioccolato for dessert.
Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.
Sift the cocoa into the flour. Make a mound with the flour mixture, add a pinch of salt. Then make a well in the middle in which to put the eggs. Beat the eggs with a fork and then slowly use the fork to incorporate the flour. Use your hands to knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth. (Of course, you can use a kitchen mixer with a knead attachment to accomplish the foregoing.) Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and set aside in a cool, dry place for 20-30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4-6 pieces of equal size, but use only one piece at a time (leaving the remaining dough wrapped in plastic). If you are doing this the old fashion way, with a rolling pin, then roll it out, fold it back several times, and continue this process until thin. Alternatively, pass it through a pasta machine until thin (or until it goes through the second thinnest setting at least twice). Fold the pasta in half and then half again and then cut into desired width (about 1/3 inch for pappardelle) and place on a towel to dry or rack for a couple of hours until ready for use.
In a large pot, over medium heat, sauté the garlic until golden. Add the ribs and sear the sides. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 or so hours, stirring regularly, until thickened and meat is tender or is incorporated into the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Cook the pasta and drain. Place the pasta in a serving bowl and coat with sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano.
Remove any remaining ribs to a separate platter, and serve alongside or after the pasta.
Prep time will be 60 minutes if making fresh pasta. Also, sauce can simmer 3+ hours.