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Passport & Plate - Tagliatelle al ragù bolognese

Italy | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 5 photos

Serves 6-8


For the sauce:

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, 2 finely chopped, 2 crushed
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled & finely grated
100g pancetta, roughly chopped
150g sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
Bouquet garni (2 rosemary and 2 sage sprigs tied together with 2 bay leaves)
750g minced beef
Salt and pepper
½ bottle dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
700ml tomato passata

To serve:

500g fresh or dried egg tagliatelle
25g salt
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Extra virgin olive oil


How to prepare this recipe
Remove the meat from the fridge an hour or so before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature, so that it will sear, rather than ooze protein and liquid, when it goes into the pan.

Heat a glug of oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan, add the “battuto,” i.e., the finely chopped vegetables, along with the pancetta, sausage and bouquet garni. Sweat over a medium-high heat for about 15 minutes until softened, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning and then transfer into a bowl.

Add another little glug of oil to the pan and turn up the heat. Flatten the mince on a chopping board into a disk that will cover the base of the pan, season with salt and pepper just before cooking (to retain the moisture and juices), invert into the pan and season the topside.

Leave for about 5 minutes so that the meat seals underneath, heats through completely and develops a golden brown crust. Flip the meat and repeat the same process before breaking the mince up into little pieces with a wooden spoon.

Add the “battuto” to the pan and stir for another 5 minutes or so until the mince starts to stick to the base of the pan and is ready to take the wine.

Add the wine and let it reduce right down before stirring in the tomato paste and then the tomato passata along with about 300ml of water (used to rinse out the jar).

Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 1 hour, adding a little extra water if necessary, until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced.

When you are ready to serve the ragù, bring 5L of water to the boil in a large pot, add the salt as soon as the water starts to boil and drop in the tagliatelle, giving them a stir when they first hit the water (to prevent them from sticking). Cook until al dente and drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Stir the tagliatelle through the ragù, adding some of the cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce.

Serve topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.


The story behind this recipe
Growing up in New Zealand as the daughter of a culinary Pom and a Kiwi food enthusiast, "spag bol” featured regularly on the weekly menu. I have fond memories of smothering my pasta in freshly grated parmesan, twirling the spaghetti around my fork and attempting to engulf the loosely tangled nest whilst ungracefully hoovering up any wayward strands. Little did I know back then that “spag bol” was as much Italian as Yorkshire pudding…

It wasn't until I reached the tender age of seventeen and embarked on a cultural exchange to Italy, that this country’s alimentary patchwork and culinary customs were unveiled to me, and what a revelation that was! Who would have thought that “spag bol” defies the very regulations of Italian pasta culture?! Italians may be notorious for disobeying national laws, but when it comes to those concerning food, they may as well be written in stone, or carved in Carrara marble!

Six years later, with an Italian degree and several sojourns in Italy under my belt, I delved deeper into my Italian food exploration. The destination? Bologna “la grassa” – the very birthplace of that comfort food from my childhood. There, at the heart of Italian cuisine, not only did I study Italian gastronomy at the oldest university in the world, but I tried every “ragù alla bolognese” I could get my hands on, spent my every last dime on golden nuggets of “stravecchio” Parmigiano-Reggiano and even woke up before dawn to watch the local cheesemaker create this “king of cheeses.” Every Tuesday I would make fresh egg pasta by hand at the “Vecchia Scuola Bolognese” and in the summer I ventured south to Campania to process the sweet, sun-drenched cherry tomatoes into tomato passata.

Returning home to Aotearoa, complete with a year’s supply of artisanal bronze cut “Alfeltra” pasta, I no longer prepared “spag bol,” but rather, “tagliatelle al ragù bolognese,” however, never without that “sacrilegious” kiwi touch my parents passed down to me. Shush! “Acqua in bocca!”

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Nicola Moores

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