Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Ultimate Spaghetti Bolognese

For someone that handed round homemade chutney for presents I was utterly spoilt this Christmas.  Along with beautiful 'Ruby' the sewing machine from Henny and Dad; a whole set of Jamie Oliver's blue fluted crockery from Angie, Ronnie and Clare; my dream orange Le Crueset from Bo (which made me cry); a years subscription to Jamie mag from Boy Wonder,  my dearest friend Fraser treated me with a brand spanking shiny new Jamie Oliver pasta machine.  I am currently Jamie Oliver'd out my nut. 

Fraser's presents from me consisted of a 'Pump n' Go' Yankee Candle for his car (which in my defence is funny and he loved it being a full on Yankee Candle fanatic) and the age old go-to present for any male in your life - the Top Gear calender.  Guilt is clutching at my soul. 

I have owned a pasta machine before and around 4 years ago experimented with ravioli fillings for days. Where the fillings were delish unfortunately the pasta itself was like thick cardboard, but I guess thats what you get for buying a pasta machine for £5.99 from Argos.  Since then it has done nothing but sit on the graveyard shelf along with the steamer and the emergency crockery.  For anyone that its acquainted with pasta machines you will know that after the dough is made it must be passed through the rollers that are set at different widths.  The pasta begins on 7 (the widest setting on my machines) and rolled through each stage until it gets to 1 (the narrowest).  My old pasta machine's number 1 setting was as thick as my number 7 on my brand spanking new one, hence the cardboard pasta. 

Making fresh pasta it definitely a social activity and to celebrate the unveiling a party had to be held.  Slow cooked Bolognese made in my Le Crueset was promised in exchange for garlic bread, vino and helping hands.  I might have omitted the do-it-yourself part.  Before everyone arrived the Bolognese (just like mama used to make, or actually just me) was put together, set simmering on the hob and Head Chef Bo worked on the dough.

Fresh Pasta Dough

Based on Jamie Oliver's recipe. Obviously.
Serves 6

600g/ 1lb Tipo '00' flour (plus extra for dusting)
6 eggs

Pile the flour on to a clean, large, work surface.  If you want to be a little tidier you can use a board or a bowl instead.  Make a well in the centre that will be large enough to fit in all the eggs.  Crack all the eggs into the well and lightly beat them with a fork.*  Incorporate the flour into the egg mixture with the tips of your fingers, a little at a time, until everything is combined.  Work the dough together so it comes together in a ball.

Now the dough needs to be kneeded and given a bit of love to stretch the gluten.  We highly recommend listening to random jazz as it seems to be perfect kneeding music and really gives you the strength to work that dough.  When it turns from rough and floury to smooth and silky (and can be stretched easily without breaking) your pasta dough is ready.  Cover the whole ball tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

*At this stage I was recruited to be Dam Woman, making sure that no pesky eggs escaped their doom.  It is handy to have a Commis and I told you that pasta making was social!

Cutting the dough

Now I'm not saying that you need 5 people to make pasta but the majority of us were fresh pasta rookies so more hands etc etc.  Or was it too many cooks?  I'll let you be the judge of that.

We used Jamie's trusty method which you can find here and it worked a treat,  the first time was a little sketchy but by the last piece we were like a troop of Italian mamas! Our top tips would be to make sure that you have the worktop space, to make sure that you have a bag of Tipo '00' flour at hand and to not be afraid to cut the dough if it gets too long.  All agreed that the pasta was a little too thin for fettuccine and it needed to be a bit more robust to cope with the hearty-ness of our bolognese.  Perfect for ravioli though, so stay tuned!

Bo - Feeder, Catcher and Handle Cranker
Gillian - Machine Stabiliser and Bo's Right-Hand Girl
Emma - 2nd Catcher, Official Photographer and Question Asker
Stevie - Jamie Oliver Book Reader and Tagliatelle Untangler
Ailsa - Pasta Machine Instruction Reader and Tagliatelle Store Manager

Set: The Smallest Kitchen in the World

Gillian and Bo hard at work

My skills were put to good use

Stevie looking after the precious fettuccine


Serves 6

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 kg good quality beef mince
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
1 small glass red wine
1 tsp dried chilli
jar of pasata
250ml of chicken or beef stock
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp of milk
salt and pepper

Put a large, thick bottomed pan on the a medium setting and sweat the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 5-10 minutes until translucent.  Add the chilli, turn up the heat and add the beef.  Cook in batches if you have a small pan so the meat doesn't go grey but instead browns nicely.  Use a wooden spoon to break up the beef and once cooked pour in the wine and cook until reduced by half.  Turn the heat down, stir in the tomato puree, pasata and stock.

Place a bay leaf in the pot, place the lid on and turn the heat down to low.  Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Lift the lid, add the sugar, milk (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes - a good but weird tip!) and season to taste.

Replace the lid and cook for a further 45 minutes.