Su Filindeu Pasta in Mutton Broth with Pecorino

A bowl of su filindeu pasta.

To say this filindeu pasta recipe is a labour of love is a massive understatement. Your first challenge is to get your hands on some su filindeu. That's not going to be easy because only a handful of people in a remote part of Sardinia know the secret to making it. Get your credit card ready, because this stuff is expensive.

The next challenge is sourcing the meat. Mutton isn’t very popular in the UK, so you'll need to find a good halal butcher who can supply you with diced mutton. You could just use lamb instead, but your broth will lack the slightly gamey taste that is a hallmark of older sheep.

Incorporating extra meat into the dish is not traditional, but when we've gone to this much effort getting hold of ingredients, we really want this recipe to impress our guests. As for getting hold of a lamb neck fillet, you may need to look online, although in truth any of the "tough cuts" that need long, slow cooking such as shoulder, shank, or leg, will be just as good.

Your final quest is to source fresh pecorino. It's completely different from the hard, aged stuff that you find in supermarkets. For utter authenticity, here we're using fresh Pecorino Sardo (i.e. from Sardinia), which has a strong but enjoyably sharp taste.

Pro tip
We favour using "closed" environments when cooking tough cuts of meat (for which we use sous vide) or making stocks and broths (for which we use a pressure cooker). Both keep evaporation to a minimum, which enables cooks to retain the flavours that would normally be lost into the atmosphere.

For the sake of regular home cooks, though, the instructions below are designed for more everyday kitchen equipment.

For the lamb neck fillet

Ingredients for cooking lamb neck.

Ingredient Quantity
Lamb neck x1
Salt as needed
Pepper as needed
Black garlic x1 clove
Anchovies x3 fillets
Olive oil as needed
Shallots x1
Rosemary x1 bunch

Start by sprinkling a little salt and pepper over the lamb and mash all the other ingredients into a paste. Put the meat and marinade into a zip-lock bag and marinate overnight.

When you are ready to cook, wash off the marinade and add the meat to a flavourful liquid (e.g. wine, stock, etc.) and simmer as gently as possible until the meat is tender and falling apart. This could take anywhere from 1-2 hours.

Shred the lamb neck and refrigerate until needed.

For the mutton broth
Note: As a rule, broths are made with meat, and stocks are made with bones. If you can only get hold of bone-in mutton, remove the meat and save the bones for making stock.

Our number one aim here is to create a broth that has oodles of body and flavour while also being crystal clear. That's not to say it won't have colour, but su filindeu is the star of the show in this dish, and we want to be able to see it in its full glory.

Mutton Broth Ingredients

Ingredient Quantity
Oregano 1g
Star anise
x1 small
Bay leaf
x1 small
Salt to taste

Chop the mutton into pea-sized chunks (or, even better, coarsely grind it if you have the equipment). Usually, we would recommend browning the meat to unlock all the complex flavours that result, but for this dish, we want a light-coloured broth. (Caramelised meat provides a deep-brown colour broth, which is sought after in some settings; just not this one.)

Put the diced mutton in a saucepan of cold water, bring it to a boil, remove from the heat, and scoop off any fat or impurities that rise to the surface. Drain, clean the saucepan, and recharge with fresh water.

Dice the onion, carrot, and celery into pea-size chunks, slice the garlic, and add to your pan along with the herbs and aromatics.

Simmer as gently as humanly possible for 2-3 hours. You don't need to constantly babysit it, but do try to regularly scoop off any impurities that rise to the surface.

Strain the broth through a sieve to take out the chunky ingredients, then again through cheesecloth to take out the smaller particles.

Stop here, and you've got the basis for an epic dinner.

Optional step: clarify your broth into a consommé

How to clarify broth for su filindeu.
Culinary wizard Dave Arnold once described his need to clarify liquids as a “sickness,” and it’s one we share. There’s just something quite satisfying about taking a murky sauce or liquid and making it crystal clear.

To clarify a broth, you'll need to make a raft. This is essentially a high-protein liquid that attracts the suspended solids in your broth and draws them to the surface, allowing you to scoop them off and uncover the clear consommé underneath.

The easiest way to do that is to simply whisk some egg whites with your broth and gently heat it until the egg whites float to the surface. That works well, but those suspended solids are full of flavour, so you'll basically be diluting the taste of the consommé by getting rid of them. The solution is to make a flavourful raft to counteract any flavour loss. This requires more work and more expense, which probably explains why you hardly ever see consommés on restaurant menus these days.

Ingredients for the raft

Ingredient Quantity
Broth All
Minced mutton 200g
Egg whites x2

In a blender, add your pre-made broth along with the egg whites and minced mutton. Don't be disheartened when it turns a distusting gray-brown colour. When we first did this, we didn't believe that within an hour, this revolting sludge was going to be crystal clear.

Add the mixture to a saucepan and heat over a medium-low flame until it reaches a very gentle simmer. Do not let it boil.

Wait for the raft to float to the surface (this could take 20-30 minutes), poke a 5cm hole in the middle of the raft, and allow the pan to remain at a very gentle simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, and gently scoop off and discard the raft. Carefully ladle the liquid through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a clean bowl.

Now's a good time to text your foodie friends and tell them that you have, quite legitimately, made your first consommé.

All you need to do now is season to taste with salt. As a general guide, we weigh the amount of consommé and add 0.75% of its weight in salt.

Right, let's eat...

Su filindeu mise en place.

Ingredient Quantity
Su filindeu pasta 80g pp
Mutton broth 250g pp
Lamb neck fillet 80g pp
Fresh Pecorino 30g pp

Remove the lamb and broth from the fridge, break the pasta into chunky pieces, and chop the cheese into die-size pieces.

Bring the broth to a simmer and add the su filindeu and lamb. Cook until the pasta is al dente and the lamb is warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the pecorino, and serve in warmed bowls.

Savour every mouthful in the knowledge that you are one of the few people on the planet who has ever eaten, and quite possibly ever will eat, this legendary dish.

Su filindeu finished dish