At a hunting lodge in Sardinia, I was the only other person in the dining room when a large group of hunters – all men who were singing loudly – invited me to join them at their table. The hostess promptly told me to go back to my own table and to leave the next day. She had already chased me out of the kitchen that morning, even though I showed her a letter from a newspaper saying I was writing a piece for them. The cooks were making malloreddus, the conch-shaped ridged Sardinian pasta, with caprino cheese for their own meal. It is delicious but very rich; I serve a small amount for a first course. You can use ridged penne instead, because they, too, will hold the creamy sauce well. Saffron, another product of Sardinia, is optional.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the package instructions.
- Mash the cheese with a fork in a wide pan. Add the grated citrus zests, season with salt and pepper, and stir in 1 to 2 tbsp of the boiling pasta water. If using the saffron, put it in a small bowl or cup and add 2 tbsp of the boiling pasta water; let infuse for 2 to 3 minutes, then add to the cheese. Stir vigorously to make a creamy sauce. Heat gently when the pasta is ready.
- When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain, reserving 1 to 2 tbsp of the cooking water. Transfer to the pan with the cheese and mix well, adding the reserved cooking water so that the sauce is creamy. Serve hot.