Restaurant: Bibiana in Washington, DC shares Italian pasta recipe

Chef Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana shares cavatelli recipe from Puglia Photo: Powers and Crewe Photography

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2012 — Bibiana marks restauranteur Ashok Bajaj’s foray into the ever-growing contemporary Italian dining scene in Washington, DC.

Hailed by Esquire as one of the 20 best restaurant in 2010, this restaurant, located at the corner of 12th and H, has become a staple among foodies in the nation’s capital. 

The design — rich in leather, dark woods and glasswork — will remind Italiophiles of Milan.  The menu, however, steps out from conventional cuisine to embrace a twist on the classics. 

Executive chef Nicholas Stefanelli, who cut his chops at Galileo and Maestro, puts a premium on hyper fresh ingredients.  If he can’t get the quality he needs for a dish, he doesn’t cook it.  If an interesting ingredient becomes available, he’ll prepare a dish around it.  (Recently, he says, Tuesdays have been good for sea urchins, which he has been preparing with pasta for an off-the-menu special).

You won’t have any trouble ordering directly from the menu.  Start with the crispy artichokes.  They are tender and not greasy, and are brilliantly awakened with a hint of lemon and fried parsley.

Another starter stand out is the house made burrata served with local tomatoes.  In no way does this cheese resemble the hockey pucks served by too many Italian restaurants.  Here, it is moist and creamy. 

One of Bibiana’s most popular dishes is the black spaghetti topped with lump crab meat.  The pasta is perfectly cooked, defining al dente, and delivers a proper bite.

Fish gets an Italian twist.  Try the skate, which is served with a pungent Sicilian Caponata, tastes the very essence of the Mediterranean.

One of Stefanelli’s personal favorites is the cavatelli al grano arso, burnt wheat cavatelli.

 “I love being able to research and bring old historical dish back into the modern dinning. The story behind grano arso is a sad romantic story of poverty and survival. The flour used to make the cavatelli is called grano arso.  It means burnt wheat.  It comes from Puglia.  The peasants would clean the bakers ovens and save all of the burnt flour that would fall off the bread in the oven floors.  They would then take that flour home to make pasta,” he explains. “We use a coffee fennel sausage with kale and pecorino to create the dish.”

Cavatelli A Grano Arso Recipe for 4 

For the pasta

500g of burnt semolina

200ml hot water 

For the sauce

6oz of sausage

1 Bunch of kale cut into thick ribbons

1 red chili or pinch of red chili flakes

2oz pecorino

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


 In a stand mixer add the flour and using a dough hook add the hot water and mix.  Once a firm ball is made let it kneed for another 10 minutes.  If need add some more semolina.  Take the dough out and let it rest. Then place a large pot of water on to boil.  Using a pasta maker roll the dough into sheets about 1/4” thick.  Then cut into large ribbons about an inch wide.  Pass the ribbons through the a cavatelli maker and place on a sheet tray lightly dusted with semolina. 

Once all the pasta is made add it to the boiling salted water.  In a large sautée pan add the sausage and brown.  Once the fat is rendered out add the chili and the kale and cook for another 

minute.  Then strain the pasta and add the the kale with a little of the pasta water And some fresh olive oil.  Let it cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.  Finish with some freshly grated pecorino. 





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Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

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