|Mr. B's Homemade Tagliatelle with Mel's Meaty Ragu|
Few things in life rival the simple bliss of eating homemade pasta, especially on a cold and damp Sunday evening. Unlike its boxed counterpart, pasta made by hand is light and delicate, almost ethereal, and definitely a heavenly and worthy indulgence. I like the idea of making pasta, but I have ridiculously little patience for the work. Thankfully, Mr. B has far more patience than me and with adequate pleading (and perhaps, a little bribery) he's quite happy taking on the task.
The ingredients for homemade pasta are quite easily procured and most likely ones you regularly have on hand--flour, egg, salt, water. While I guess it's quite possible that one may want to roll out their own pasta dough by hand, I'd think it too much of a laborious undertaking and unnecessary since a basic pasta maker can be purchased for as little as $20. A caveat, though, once rolled through the machine, the resulting sheets of pasta can be quite large, so you'll need adequate counter space, or a bit of ingenuity. Mr. B used the latter when he came up with the genius idea of attaching our pasta maker to the ironing board--of course, we ordered a special ironing board cover that is only used for pasta making.
Thus far, Mr. B hasn't ventured beyond Tagliatelle (although, I do remember a ravioli several years back), but I'm easy enough to please and Tagliatelle's characteristic wide noodles are good for mopping up any last trails of sauce and bits of meat, even more suited for my meaty ragu.
Mr. B's Tagliatelle
3 to 4 cups of flour
4 eggs, at room temperature
2-3 teaspoons of water
pinch of salt
1. Pour 3 cups of flour onto the center of a wooden board and make a well in the center.
2.Add the eggs and salt.
3.With your hands, begin incorporating the flour into the eggs, working from the outside in--and yes, it will be quite messy.
4. If needed add 2 to 3 teaspoons of room temperature water until you can develop a cohesive ball of dough.
5. Clean your board of any scraps and sprinkle flour onto the surface.
6. Continue kneading the dough for 5 to 6 minutes, until it is smooth, but still just a tad sticky.
7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.
8. When ready to make the pasta, follow the instructions on your machine (Tagliatelle should be 3/4 of an inch thick.
9. Cook briefly in hot salted water.
10. Serve in a warm bowl, topped with the ragu, fresh grated cheese, and a chiffonade of basil.
Mel's Meaty Ragu
1 pound boneless pork country ribs, or pork shoulder, cut into chunks1 pound boneless beef blade steak, or boneless short ribs, or chuck roast, cut into chunks1 pound of hot Italian sausage, casings removed1 fennel bulb, trimmed, outer leaves and core removed, sliced as thinly as possible2 large onions, finely minced6 garlic toes, peeled and finely minced1 6 ounce package of mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and finely chopped1 large can of crushed tomatoes1 jar of pasta sauce, or 4 cups of homemade tomato sauce1 tablespoons Italian seasoning1 tablespoon ground fennel seed1 bunch of Italian parsley, stems removed, finely chopped2 bunches of fresh basil, stems removed, shredded into a fine chiffonade1/4 cup chopped fresh oreganosalt and pepper to tastedParmesan cheeseUnseasoned, toasted buttered bread crumbsFlour2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Dredge pork and beef in flour and salt and pepper.2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and when hot, in small batches, add the pork and beef to the pan and sear the meat; remove to a platter.3. Add the Italian sausage to the pan and brown; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings.4. Reheat the pan and add the onions and fennel to the drippings; cook until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking until the mushrooms are slightly browned and cooked through. Turn off the heat.5. Stir in the Italian seasoning and ground fennel.6.. Place the pork, beef and Italian sausage into a crockpot. Add the onions, fennel and mushroom mixture.7. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and the tomato sauce.8. Cook on high for 5-6 hours (time could vary by crockpot, but the sauce is finished when you can easily shred the meat).9. After 5-6 hours, stir in chopped parsley, oregano and all but two handfuls of the basil.10. Turn crockpot to warm and allow to sit for 30 minutes.11. To serve, remove some of the beef and pork to a bowl and with two forks shred the meat. Add 2-3 cups of cooked rigatoni and a few spoonfuls of the ragu, with the Italian sausage, mix together. Add a few pinches of bread crumbs, some parmesan and a pinch of basil. Mix well.12. Divide between warm pasta bowls. Garnish with additional basil, parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.