Calories per portion 580
Ingredients (Serves 4)
400 g Flour (14 oz.)
½ Celery rib
1/2 Onion (medium size)
1 Bay leaf
300 g ground Beef (bit less than 11 oz.)
150 g unseasoned Tomato purée (5.5 oz.)
½ glass of Red Wine
2 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
60 g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
This is the typical egg pasta recipe with whole eggs and plain zero-zero flour. In Italy there are many other types of dough, some made with just yolks others with vegetables like spinach or with tomato paste for additional flavor and color. After few times it will be quite easy to get a nice elastic and manageable dough and, especially if a pasta machine (motor or crank) is used, also the rolling and thinning part will be achieved in no time. Of course, the real Italian tradition requires a large table, a long pin roller, a marble surface for the final pasta to rest and dry up a bit and most of all, a lot of experience. (This is just an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O74DwwNvJis). For the sauce, you will see that the most noticeable difference between the real ragù and the rest of the different versions of meat and tomato sauce made worldwide is in the quantity. Our ragù is ground meat colored by tomato and not few meatballs sitting on top of a huge red sauce. The method you will learn here is not the only one since here in Italy recipes change from village to village, but it is the easiest to be followed without a video or a real person that might show you what to do.
Make the usual ‘volcano’ on your table (in Italy it is called ‘the fountain’). In simple words just shape sort of a mountain of sifted flour with a hole in the center. Break and beat the eggs while inside the ‘volcano’ with the help of a fork and gently start incorporating some flour in the middle. Keep moving the fork till the center area is not as much liquid then start bringing flour toward the center. A scraper (made in plastic or stained steel) would be helpful in collecting all the little lumps around so that we can compact everything and start kneading. It doesn’t take long to get one smooth ball of dough. Now just cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (in the old days we would put it into a slightly damp towel and place it in a cool place). Put it back on the table with some flour and work it with a roller pin or use a pasta machine. When the dough will be as thin as we want (depends on the type of pasta; for tortellini o ravioli we will need it extremely thin, for tagliatelle or fettuccine a bit thicker) we fold it a few times using flour so the layers won’t stick to eachother then we cut our tagliatelle with a sharp knife (we can make pappardelle, tagliatelle, tagliolini e fettuccini according to the width of our cut). As soon as we finish, we have to open the rolls of pasta and spread them with some flour letting the tagliatelle fall down on the table. The idea is to let it rest and dry a little; this way it won’t fall apart while cooking.
Take a pan large enough to contain everything. Bring the oil to sizzle then add the vegetables finely chopped as to make a soffritto. Add the bay leaf and when everything will be nice and sizzled, add the ground meat breaking it in smaller chunks with a spoon. The important thing is not to add any salt now, otherwise the meat will lose its juices. Stir it few times till it will be roasted all together then pour the red wine and let it evaporate. This may sound weird, but we have to let the meat stick to the bottom of the pan. Actually the procedure will be: let it start sticking, stir it and wait till it sticks again and so on for 7 times. At the end add the tomato purée, lower the heat down to minimum, put the lid on and cook the sauce for at least 1 and ½ hour (As you see it doesn’t take all day like in the American recipes). Past the first 60 minutes, check the sauce, add salt and pepper and eventually some water. When the sauce is ready we can let it rest as long as we want, even all day. This will concentrate the flavors and make it even more delicious, but it can be served even now if we want to.
The final part
Bring a large pot full of water to the boil (it takes a lot of water to cook pasta), add salt (do not put salt before the boiling point or you will have to wait forever in order to bring it back to bubble). Fresh pasta and most of all egg pasta do not require a very high temperature. Actually bubbling water could break the tagliatelle, so it will be better lower to medium heat and watch for overspill. Pasta will be ready between 1 or 2 minutes, so we will taste it after the first minute and we will check that it has lost the egg flavor and its texture is soft on the outside but still with a structure inside. I know it is not easy to get it right but think of it this way: if you take it out a bit sooner, you will always be able to fix it by mixing it with the sauce into a skillet, but if you overcook it that’s it, there’s no way out. So if you have to make a mistake, do it on the early side. Ok, so now we drain our pasta (if you rinse it I will have you arrested). If we are not experienced we might take too much water out and end up with a ball of sticky tagliatelle, so save a cup of the cooking water: we will be able to add a bit of it to make the pasta moist again. My suggestion is to put half of the Parmesan cheese directly on the pasta, stir it and then add the sauce (which obviously will be steaming hot). Serve it on the plates and add the rest of the cheese on top and no seasonings. If you will try this type of sauce, you will drop any other fancy impression of Italian pasta like ‘spaghetti & meatballs’ (which doesn’t exist in Italy). One more thing, please stop this bad habit of adding oregano to a tomato sauce. Oregano in Italy is used with some vegetables and sometimes on badly made pizzas. Any time we want to season a tomato, we use fresh basil, parsley if there’s seafood involved, but oregano just doesn’t belong.