In honor of our first days of winter….
I would like to share my Pasta alla Bolognese recipe….
As soon as the snow started to fall, I had a hankerin’ for a fat bowl of handmade pasta and rich meat sauce. I must warn though, you need ample time to make this dish, which gives you ample time to get good and hungry! Italian ragu is not something one can rush, and any Italian nonna will tell you so. My grandmother was half Italian and boy could she cook! I like to think I am doing her right by making my hearty sauce.
Everyone knows to make a well in the center of your flour, but the key is to make a large ring of flour and a large well in the middle so you have enough room to stir and incorporate. If you have a tall mound with a small well, your eggs may spill out on your work station and run away if you are not careful.
Stir up your eggs first, then keep taking small amounts of flour from the middle portion of your ring, keeping it an equal size all the way around. Then start incorporating some from the top until it is thick enough for you to start kneading it by hand. Knead for about 2 minutes, and remember to scrape your work station to incorporate those extra pieces into the dough as well….an Italian pasta maker won’t leave any scraps behind.
Once you have your dough, cover it with a bowl for about 30 minutes and let it rest.
Then roll it through your pasta machine down to a size 2 thickness.
Roll it up and cut your end straight across so it is even.
Cut in to 1/4″ pieces, unroll and toss in to a small amount of flour; set aside.
4 large eggs, room temperature 2C all purpose flour (I use King Arthur) 1T extra virgin olive oil 1t salt
- Make your mound of flour on your work station, or in a large bowl, and carve out a large well in the middle.
- Sprinkle the salt around the top of the mound.
- Crack your eggs in to the well, add the olive oil, and give it a stir with a fork to mix well.
- Start pulling small bits of flour from the middle of your ring and incorporate them in to the egg mixture with your fork.
- After it starts to thicken a little, start to pull the flour from the top of the ring, making sure to keep the ring even all the way around.
- when the egg mixture starts to stiffen up and form a dough, you can start kneading in the flour by hand at this point.
- Scrape your work station to make sure nothing is sticking to it, and incorporate any loose pieces of dough.
- Knead for about 2-3 minutes on your work station, roll in to a ball, cover with a bowl or plastic wrap and rest 30 minutes.
- Cut your dough into 6 pieces and run it through your pasta machine down to a size 2, or roll out by hand until it is thin enough to see through, cut into 4″ wide strips, roll up each strip and cut it into 1/4″ pieces, unroll the cut strips and toss with flour.
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a rapid boil, add in 3T of sea salt, put in about 1 lb of pasta at a time and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- The pasta should be aldente or still have a little bit of a chewiness to it. I like to pull the pasta out with tongs or a pasta spoon and drizzle some of the pasta water into my ragu for a little bit extra saltiness.
Ragu is so subjective. Every Italian family has their own recipe, and whether or not to put cream in at the end, is getting debated somewhere in Italy amongst nonna’s right now…..I guarantee it!
I start out by mincing my vegetables before I saute them, and finish up with…..you got it… 2T of heavy cream to smooth out the richness.
I also use local meats from Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Snow Creek. If you can’t find a solid piece of pancetta, just buy the pre-sliced pack, layer it up, and dice it. If you can’t find pancetta at all, you can use bacon, but this will lend to a slightly smokey flavor in the sauce.
Pasta alla Bolognese
1/4C extra virgin olive oil 2T unsalted butter or lard 1 stalk of celery, minced 1 small carrot, minced 1 small yellow onion, minced fresh cracked pepper coarse sea salt 1/2 lb. ground beef 1/2 lb. pork sausage 1 lb. ground pork 4oz pancetta, chopped fine 1/2C dry red wine, Zinfandel or Pinot Noir 2T tomato paste 1 28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, pureed 2T heavy cream
- Place the olive oil and butter or lard in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat on medium until the butter stops foaming. You don’t want to skimp on the olive oil, this is what will lend to tenderness and richness….besides, it’s extremely healthy for you.
- Add the minced celery, carrot, and onion (you can mince these in the food processor, but be sure not to make it into a wet mush). Add in about 1t of fresh cracked pepper and about 1 1/2t of sea salt; saute for about 10-15 minutes until it is getting brown—-stir frequently.
- Turn heat down to low and continue to stir for another 10 minutes or until it gets quite brown. It may start to get dry and stick a little when it is ready.
- Add the meats, breaking them up with a spoon as you go. Cook until they are starting to brown, then add in your pancetta, and cook for about 10 minutes to let the fat start rendering.
- Increase your heat to medium again, add in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot.
- When the wine has evaporated, add in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
- Then add in the pureed tomatoes, give it a stir, reduce the heat to low, and cook uncovered for 2.5-3 hours, stirring infrequently.
- Add in cream, take off heat, taste for saltiness, toss with fresh pasta, and top with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.