Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Homemade Tagliatelle and Ragù Bolognese

I've made Bison Bolognese several time since presenting the recipe in February 2011. I cannot say that it has been met with universal enthusiasm. The main offender was the addition of Italian sausage. My kin can snuff out a fennel seed like truffle hogs. "Death seeds" are considered outside the limits of justifiable cooking and are not tolerated. And you thought your family was picky.

I love Bolognese so I've been searching for a new recipe. It didn't have to be bison, either. I regularly pick up the 96/4 lean ground beef at Trader Joes. It's as lean as you get and it's still quite flavorful. I even drain the fat from it when using it to make Tacos. Anyway, I read a lot of recipes and settled on one from a food blog called Food Nouveau. I only changed it a teeny bit. I should mention that her recipe is a blend of two others - one from Josée Di Stasio, a Canadian cook and TV host, and the other from The Geometry of Pasta.

One interesting point of fact: nearly every Bolognese recipe that appeared to be worth its salt called for the addition of a cup of milk. Some recipe authors claim it helps tenderize the meat.

Making the new Ragù also meant making some fresh pasta to go with it. I hadn't made fresh pasta in eons. In the process, I re-wrote my standard pasta recipe which was based on the commercial amounts I used to turn out at Cafe Nola. The pasta recipe will generously serve a family of four. Here are those recipes:

Ragù Bolognese
Print recipe only here

Serves 4, generously

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, finely  chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely  chopped
2 stalks celery, finely  chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
3 slices pancetta (cut into 1/2-cm cubes)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 # lean ground beef (I like the 96/4 variety)
1/2 cup white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
1 cup lowfat or nonfat milk
1 15-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, diced (you will use both the liquid as well as the tomatoes)
1/2 cup beef stock

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic with a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the pancetta and cook for a further 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and pancetta is golden.

Increase the heat to high and add the meat a third at a time, stirring and breaking lumps with a spoon between each addition. Adding the meat gradually allows the water to evaporate – which is key if you want to brown your meat and not boil it. After the last addition, when no pink can be spotted in the meat and no lumps remain, set a timer for 15 minutes. You want your meat to caramelize and even become crispy in spots. More water will evaporate and flavors will concentrate. You want golden bits of meat to stick to the bottom of your pan – this flavorful crust will then be deglazed with white wine. Watch over your pan as you don’t want your meat to burn. When you see some caramelization happening, lower heat to medium to each the end of your 15-minute sautéing time (on my stove, that’s after about 8-9 minutes).

Over medium heat, pour the white wine into the sauce pan. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits stuck to the bottom and sides of your pan. Push the meat all around to make sure you scrape it all off. By the time you’re finished, the wine will be evaporated (2-3 minutes).

Add milk, diced tomatoes (with liquid), beef stock, another pinch of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to the lowest heat and let simmer, half-covered, for 4 hours. Stir once in a while. If your sauce starts sticking before the end of your cooking time, add a bit of stock or water. In the end, the sauce should be thick, more beef than sauce based. Adjust the seasoning one last time, then stir into a drained bowl of cooked pasta and serve.

Fresh Pasta
Print recipe only here

Serves 4, generously

3 cups flour
4-5 eggs
1 t salt
1 T olive oil

2-3 T semolina, for dusting

Measure flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, or in a mixing bowl or onto a clean counter.

Add eggs and olive oil and pulse until combined and takes on the appearance of wet sand.

NOTE ON THE EGGS: All flour has a different moisture content. My best estimation is that you can safely add 5 eggs to this recipe. If your eggs are particularly large, try four. You can always pulse in another if the dough feels dry.

If working without the Cuisinart, make a well, add the eggs and oil, whisk together and incorporate flour. It should resemble the mixture in the photo below.

Turn out onto a floured counter and knead, incorporating more flour as needed, until smooth.

Wrap in plastic and let sit for 30 minutes.

Dust two baking sheets with semolina. Cut dough into four even pieces. Keep three loosely wrapped in the plastic wrap. Lightly flour a work surface and flatten one of the pieces of pasta dough, pressing flour into both sides.

Using a pasta machine set to the widest setting (#1 on my Atlas) feed the flattened dough through the rollers. Fold the dough over onto itself and roll through, on the same setting. Do this a total of 4 times, dusting with flour as necessary.

Change the setting to the next widest (#2). Feed the pasta through, fold over and feed through again. Run it thru #2 for a total of three times.

Change the setting to #3. You no longer need to fold the dough, unless the surface appears rough or uneven. Run it through this setting 2-3 times. Let the dough rest for a minute or so. Or pick up another chunk of dough out of the plastic wrap and begin to roll that one out, starting at the widest setting.

Run the dough through the rollers until the desired thickness is achieved. I use #6 as my final for tagliatelle, and #7 (the thinnest setting) for lasagna. Run the pasta through each setting at least twice. At the thinner settings, let the dough rest for a minute between rollings to allow it to relax a bit.

At #6 the pasta can be fed through the cutting rollers or cut to the width you prefer by hand. Once you cut it into the desired shape, spread it out on the baking sheet. Allow to dry for about 30 minutes before cooking.

Cook in a large pot of well-salted water (and a splash of oil) for one minute. Drain gently, toss with sauce and serve.

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