I did, my friends, I did. I cheated.
Lenten sacrifices are no match for a request from a not-oft seen uncle for homemade pasta with Bolognese. Apparently it is his most favorite. How do you say no to that?
This is a very traditional Bolognese, it is really a meat sauce, rather than a tomato based sauce with meat in it. In fact, the only tomato ingredient is tomato paste, and the sauce contains milk and white wine. It also has a whole lot of carrot, celery and onion in it.
It is very easy to do. You soften onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a bit of butter and olive oil until it is soft.
Then you add a combination of ground meats.
I use equal parts beef, pork and veal, and then a bit of pancetta as well. I made this a couple of months ago in my home kitchen, and I forgot to have the butcher grind the pancetta with the rest of the meat, and when I remembered, the volume wasn’t enough to run it through their big meat grinder, so I had to take it home and use this…
It was glorious. I love my meat grinding attachment.
Anyway, they now go into the pot as well.
Once the meat browns, you add the tomato paste.
Lastly the milk and the wine go in, and the sauce simmers for a couple of hours until it comes together in a meaty masterpiece.
And with that, if you want to showcase this fantastic sauce, the best way to do it is with homemade pasta, which you can create while the sauce simmers.
And guess what I did? Because of the absence of a food processor, I made the pasta the old school way, with a well of flour, some eggs, a fork and some elbow grease.
Ok, so clearly I should remove most of the expensive tools (or at the very least, the processor) from my kitchen, because I said it with the pate brisee, and now again with pasta. This dough was divine. It was a pleasure to knead and to roll out. It was smooth and pliable and felt light. I felt like I had control over it: how much flour to add, how much to knead, etc. And if you make the pasta in a large bowl, there is no egg wrangling if it escapes the well, though I feel like I could probably do that too, if I put my mind to it. This does make a ton of dough though, and that’s the weird part. I got the proportions from Mario Batali, and this apparently is supposed to make about a pound of pasta. I used close to four cups of flour and five eggs. (I don’t have a scale down here.) And the recipe I use in the processor? Two cups of flour, two eggs and a little bit of water. Also supposedly makes about a pound. I smell an experiment. I do know that my more recent attempt made more dough, and two batches made WAY more than needed for 8 adults. It looked like a pasta bomb went off in the kitchen…
It was everywhere. But those granite countertops are a pretty awesome surface for pasta dough wrangling, so it worked out.
I rolled the dough out into sheets and then cut it myself, so I could do a wider pasta than the machine allowed for. It only took a minute or two to cook, I combined it with the sauce and dinner was served.
Fresh Pasta (makes enough for four adults)
Adapted from Mario Batali
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading if necessary
pinch of salt
Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour and the salt in a wide bowl or on a flat surface. Make a large pile of flour and then create a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well, making sure the well is large enough and has high enough sides to contain the eggs easily. With a fork, begin to scramble the eggs, pulling flour from the inside of the well walls. (I find pulling from the bottom of the walls help keeps the well intact.) The dough will start to come together, and will be too hard to mix with the fork. At this point start to use your hands to knead the flour into the dough. The dough will be fairly wet and shaggy. When it becomes more difficult to incorporate the flour in the bowl, remove the dough to a heavily floured surface and put the bowl aside. Knead the dough, adding more flour, until the dough is no longer sticky, this could take up to ten minutes. Do not add too much flour, the dough should remain light and easy to knead. When it is smooth, set it aside sprinkled lightly with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 45 minutes to an hour, and then roll through a machine or by hand to the shape and width of your choice. Fresh pasta should only be cooked in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until al dente.
Ragu Bolognese (makes A LOT – enough for two batches of fresh pasta)
Adapted from Molto Mario
3 tbl unsalted butter
3 tbl olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
1/3 – 1/2 lb pancetta, preferably ground, diced small if unable to find ground
9 oz tomato paste (a can and a half if you are using small grocery store cans)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter and oil together in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until the aromatics are soft. Turn the heat up to medium high and add all the meat. Cook until the meat browns, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir the mixture to combine, and cook until the mixture is aromatic. Add in the milk, wine, thyme, salt and pepper and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until sauce reduces and comes together. Serve over your favorite pasta (pappardelle is traditional) or use in lasagna.