As a child, I was a very finicky eater. Unlike most children I refused to eat pasta of any kind. Not only did I hate pasta but I also wouldn’t touch fresh tomatoes (cooked ones were pretty suspicious to me as well). It was a texture issue; I just didn’t like the feel of either food in my mouth. Needless to say it made my mother crazy since my father insisted she make separate food for me.
Fast forward to college where I began to try many new things, including new food. I took Italian language classes and fell in love with my teacher, the language, and in the bliss of this new found love, I tried pasta and tomatoes, again. At the end of the semester our class went to the professor’s house where we all helped make homemade pasta for a Lasagna Bolognese. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. That week I went out and bought my first cookbook, Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook and made the first of many Lasagna Bolognese for my roommates (I couldn’t find any store with a rolling pin so I used an empty wine bottle!)
Over the years I’ve made many recipes out of Hazan’s signature book, mostly those that involved stuffed pastas: raviolis, tortellini, canelloni and for a real treat, pasta roll stuffed with spinach and cheese, bellisimo! I realized that the pasta I love is egg pasta used for stuffing, rather than the spaghetti or fettucini that is so readily available in grocery stores.
Since I now live closer to my mom (90 minute drive) we are spending more time together and eating together again. Inspired by a cooking show she invited me over to collaborate on a feast: I make the homemade pasta and she would make Bolognese sauce. It was a beautiful mother-daughter afternoon and while there was some discussion about what went into a Bolognese sauce (a time honored tradition I’m sure!) here are the recipes we ended up using.
1 lb ground beef
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup red wine (we used the chianti we were drinking during during cooking, of course!)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 15 oz crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cream or 1/2 and 1/2
In a large stock pot brown the beef, breaking it up into small pieces. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened. Add carrots and celery and cooking another 3-4 minutes until softened. Add red wine and allow to boil away. Add tomato paste and tomatoes and stir well. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook 30 minutes until sauce is well mixed. Stir in cream and keep on low until ready to serve. Sauce can be made in advance and reheated when you make pasta.
Homemade Egg Pasta (serves 4)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute spelt flour)
2 teaspoons milk
extra flour for dusting
On a bread board or clean counter top measure out flour and make a well in the middle. Crack eggs into well and add milk. Gentle mix eggs and milk with a fork and slowly begin incorporating flour into liquid, careful not to allow liquid to escape flour. Mold mixture into ball and begin to knead as you would knead bread dough. If you have never done that, here is a picture and directions for how to do it with bread dough, which is the same technique for pasta. This entails holding the ball with both hands together and pushing the ball away from you to create a flap, then you re-incorporate it into the dough. You knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth, like this.
Wrap the dough in a damp paper towel or dish cloth and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut it in half, rewrapping half and flatten the other half out using the heel of your hand. Dust a work space with flour and dust your rolling pin and begin to roll out the dough as thin as you can. You want it to be nearly see-through since fresh pasta will cook up to double its size. A couple of tricks to getting it thin are to stretch the dough as you would pizza, or cut in half and roll out the center of the dough, which is almost always thicker (as the edges are thinner). Also, you can allow it to rest under a dish cloth for about five minutes and when you come back to it it will stretch more easily. Once you have it at the desired thickness, loosely fold it into a jelly-roll like roll and cut strips from the end to create long strings of pasta. However, if you happen to be really lucky and have an antique noodle cutter like this one I found at an antique shop in Minnesota,
then you just roll it over the sheet and gently pull the strings apart. Drape the pasta over the back of a kitchen chair with a clean dish cloth on it and either use immediately or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 three days or for longer in the freezer. Cooking it fresh will take about 10-15 minutes depending on your desired al dente.
Spoon the Bolognese sauce over the noodles and add grated parmesan if you like.