A Classic Italian Dinner
The following collection of recipes are from an Italian cooking class I took recently with Chef Peter Johnson at The Institute of Culinary Education. The Ragu alla Bolognese we made is the official “Classic” Bolognese Ragu recipe (deemed official by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982). Bolognese Ragu originated in the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. This rich, chunky meat sauce is created with a base of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots (the holy trinity otherwise known as ‘Mirepoix‘), white wine, ground beef or veal (or a mixture if you prefer), tomato paste, milk and a touch of cream and simmered on low for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors meld together. The key is to cook slow and low to ensure a tender flavorful ragu sauce.
We made the Tagliatelle Pasta from scratch, first making the homemade dough by slowly mixing eggs into a flour mound until all the flour and eggs are mixed through, then letting the dough rise for about an hour and running it through a pasta machine to create long, super thin bands of dough and finally cutting the individual pasta strips by hand. You’ll need a lot of space, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love – but the handmade pasta is totally worth the effort!
We made a delicious Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia Bread to serve with the pasta and Bolognese Ragu and topped off the meal with a delicious Chianti and a Blood Orange Panna Cotta for dessert. Blood oranges have a crimson, blood-colored flesh, are smaller than an average orange and are grown in Texas and California, but originated in Sicily, Italy. They have a sweet-tart flavor that goes delicious with the sweet-tart Greek yogurt and cream in this light, refreshing dessert.
Ragu alla Bolognese and Handmade Tagliatelle
Makes 2 cups; serves 6
1 (5 oz) piece pancetta, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped in a food processor
1 small carrot, finely chopped in a food processor
½ small yellow onion, finely chopped in a food processor
¾ pound lean ground beef
½ cup dry white wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 ½ cups milk
2 tbsp heavy cream
Salt and Fresh ground Pepper to taste
Homemade Tagliatelle (recipe follows)
Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.
Add the celery, carrots and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes (caramelize the mire poix over low heat).
Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1½ hours.
Season the ragu with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the cream right before serving and toss with the pasta. Top off the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Recipe from the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, decreed as the official “Classic Ragu alla Bolognese” recipe in October 1982.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp olive oil
Form the flour into a mound on your work surface (stainless steel or cutting board) and create a well in the center. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt over the flour. Add the eggs, yolk, olive oil and 2 tbsp water to the well.
Using a fork, incorporate eggs and liquid in a slow circular motion, pulling in a small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.
Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.
Cut dough into quarters.
Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover the other quarters with a towel to prevent from drying out). Sprinkle some flour on your surface and on top of the dough and pass it through a pasta roller set (KitchenAid accessory or hand roller) set on the widest setting.
Fold dough into thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through pasta roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. (Keep sprinkling some flour on both sides of the dough to keep from sticking as you go).
Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you’ve reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1/16 inch-thick sheet. (The sheet will be quite long and continually get thinner as you go, so you’ll need two hands to do these last few rolls to keep the dough from ripping or sticking together).
Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve cross-wise. Transfer to a flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.
Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder cross-wise into 3/8 inch-wide strips.
Unroll strips and toss with cornmeal or semolina; spread on a floured parchment sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dry for 30 minutes.
Cook Tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 cups of the Bolognese Ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Serve with warm Foccacia bread, an Italian green salad and a glass of Chianti. Mangia!
Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia
2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) yeast
1 scant cup warm mashed potatoes
2 c warm water
½ c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c water
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
½ c thinly sliced onions
½ c pitted Kalamata or Gaela olives
½ c grated Pecorino cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Add the yeast to warm water and stir to mix through. Let the yeast and water mixture sit for a few minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, potatoes, 2 cups of water, and ½ cup of oil. Add the flour and salt and using the paddle attachment, mix at a low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky and rough.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled, 45-60 minutes. Coat half a sheet pan with the 2 tbsp of oil and press the dough evenly into the pan. Let the dough rest periodically if it seems too elastic.
Press the rosemary, onions, olives and cheese evenly into the surface of the focaccia and allow the dough to double, about 30 minutes. With the point of a pastry knife, pierce the dough gently at 2 inch intervals. In a squirt bottle, combine the remaining oil and water. Shake well and spray across the focaccia, moistening it well. Add your favorite toppings.
Bake until well browned on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, cut into squares and serve.
Blood Orange Panna Cotta
2 ½ cups blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, approx. 12 oranges), divided
1 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin
1/3 c. sugar, plus 2 tbsp, divided
7 teaspoons finely grated orange peel, divided
2/3 c. plain Greek-style yogurt (Fage)
2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods)
Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.
Stir in gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 5 tsp orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small goblets or sherbet glasses. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.
Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp orange peel, and cardamom in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced to 6 tbsp, 16-17 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.
Spoon some of the syrup over each panna cotta and serve. For extra garnish, serve with some berries and some sprigs of mint.
Recipe from Bon Appetit, January 2011.