Tagliatelle al ragu

As a student I perfected my own version of spag bol – who doesn’t! It came to mind as I had another of those dinners coming up when I couldn’t really be away from my guests before or during the meal and needed something hot and delicious in a pot to plonk in the middle of the kitchen table. Spag bol seemed like a good option but given my recent cooking escapades it seemed appropriate to search for a ‘proper’ spaghetti bolognese recipe. And that is how I came across tagliatelle al ragu, which is apparently how the real Italians do it. One of the surprises was the amount of vegetables that went into the pot – I was doing 4 times the recipe below. Another surprise was the subtlety of the flavours and juiciness of the meat. This is no spag bol!

The recipe that appealed to me most was from Gustoso:

Italy’s most loved but misinterpreted dish has to be tagliatelle al ragu. When it left Italy’s shores it somehow become spaghetti bolognese. The real bolognese dish is made by tossing a little rich, slow-cooked ragu (a meat sauce, usually veal and pork) through fresh egg noodles.

There’s a number of tricks to an outstanding ragu sauce. First you really need to let it simmer for a good 3 hours to allow all the flavours to meld together and fill your house with divine smells. A dash of milk is added to the ragu sauce to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and wine.

My own trick for browning minced meat is to do it in red wine instead of using oil. The flavour is noticeably richer and arguably healthier – substituting fat with alcohol…

Ingredients:
Serves 4

30g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped or grated
90g pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
220g minced ground veal or beef (I used half pork/half beef mince)
220g minced ground pork
2 sprigs of oregano, chopped or 1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of nutmeg
½ cup dry white wine
3/4 cup milk, or soy milk
400g tin chopped tomatoes or fresh (I used tinned ones)
250ml beef stock (I didn’t use stock, there was plenty of liquid).
400g tagliatelle
grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta. Cook over a moderate heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the minced beef, pork and oregano to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mince has browned slightly.

Pour in the wine, increase the heat and boil over high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the wine has been absorbed. Stir in the milk and reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomato and half the stock, partially cover the pan and leave to simmer gently over very low heat for 3 hours. Add more of the stock as it is needed to keep the sauce moist.

Meanwhile, cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the tageliatelle, toss with the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan.

Celeriac soup

The recipe is remarkably similar to the cream of fennel soup, which is a favourite, and as I had some fresh celeriac left, I decided to try it. It was delicious and made it to ‘must do again’ list.

Celeriac may not look the most appealing of vegetables but it has its virtues. It has a celery and parsley flavour with a slight nuttiness which it brings to this lovely, creamy soup.

Makes around 950ml, to fill 8 coffee cups or 4 soup bowls
Ready in 45 minutes

Ingredients:

25g butter
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
350g celeriac, roughly diced
150g potato, roughly diced
600ml vegetable stock, hot
5 tbsp single cream, to serve
Fresh chives, to garnish if available

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the leek and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the celeriac, cover with a sheet of damp greaseproof paper and a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  2. Tip: to freeze make the soup up until the end of step 2, then cool and freeze in a freezerproof container for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, then complete step 3.

  3. Remove the lid and paper. Add the potato and stock to the pan. Cover with the lid, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially covered, for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Cool, then blitz with a stick blender or whizz in a food processor in batches, until smooth.
  4. Stir the cream into the soup, season and reheat until piping hot. Divide between cups or bowls and garnish with chives.

I found the soup to be very thick and added quite a bit of stock to thin it.

Note:
Nutritional Information per serving:
71kcals
4.7g fat (2.8g saturated)
1.8g protein
5.5g carbs
1.9g sugar
2.6g salt