I’ve never been able to relate to people who cook and eat for the mere purpose of sustaining their bodies. I will go so far as to say that what I cook and eat links directly to my emotional wellbeing; there are days and evenings where my schedule gets away from me and yoghurt and half a bunch of blanched broccolini will suffice for dinner, and as a result I’m a properly cranky lady until my next proper meal, but on the weekends where I can spend an afternoon leisurely and carefully preparing good food I breeze into the work week feeling refreshed and revitalised.
The process of making this bolognese and pasta takes a proper afternoon to prepare it for the evening. This was the second time I’ve made pasta; the first time had turned out badly but after reading a few articles online I thought I’d give it another whirl. There’s an addictively soothing quality to the act of kneading and feeling the push and pull of the gluten form under your palm; the opportunity to wash your hands and brew a cup of tea while you allow it to rest, and then picking up the dough and feeding it through the machine, feeling the soft elasticity stretch silkily between your fingers. It’s an activity best enjoyed when you have a quiet afternoon to yourself; I’m lucky enough to live in an apartment block that’s pleasantly quiet on the weekend, and I’ll usually find a weekend chill playlist on my Spotify to play in the background while I absorb myself – this is my form of meditation.
You will need:
For the pasta (serves 2-3 as full mains, or four as part of a meal)
- 2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature;
- 200g 00 flour;
- A pasta machine;
- a rolling pin.
For the red wine bolognese:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil;
- 250g pork mince;
- 250g beef mince;
- 1 brown onion, diced;
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped;
- 300g passata;
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste;
- 100g Swiss brown mushrooms;
- 100ml red wine (such as a shiraz or cabernet sauvignon; I used a Krondorf Schulz & Bowen 2012 Barossa Shiraz);
- 1 beef stock cube;
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme;
- 3 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving;
- Freshly cracked black pepper for serving.
Measure out the flour and make a little mountain on a clean tabletop. You can also do this in a bowl if you prefer. Make a well in the middle and crack into it the two eggs. With one hand supporting the sides of the well, use a fork to gradually whisk the eggs within the well, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides of the well.
When a dough has formed, use your hands to bring the dough together and knead for five to ten minutes until smooth and elastic. To check if it’s ready, press the dough with the tip of your finger. If it springs back, it means it has reached the desired texture. Wrap in cling film and place to one side to allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
Use this time to set up your pasta machine and clamp it to the edge of the tabletop securely. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough. Set the pasta machine on the widest setting and dust the rollers lightly in flour. Feed one portion of the dough through the machine. Repeat six more times, folding the pasta into thirds and then turning it 90 degrees to the pasta machine before you feed the pasta dough through each time.
When the dough is the same width as the machine, stop folding it into thirds. Continue to feed the dough through the machine, gradually narrowing the pasta machine settings, one notch at a time, before you feed the pasta dough through each time. Repeat until you reach the second last setting on the machine. Repeat with the remaining three dough portions.
To cut the pasta by hand, roll up the pasta sheet lengthways to form a log and cut the log into thick 2cm slices for pappardelle. Unroll the pappardelle and lightly dust with flour. Leave the pasta to dry for a few hours before cooking; you can do this either on a rack or lightly bundled. I did it the first time on my laundry rack, but ever since then I haven’t been bothered and just bundled it into loose handfuls on a flour-dusted tray.
Use this time while resting to make your bolognese. It’s a beautifully simple and soothing affair. I wanted to make quite a robust bolognese featuring a delicious red I had been gifted some time ago from the great guys at Cellarmasters – a Krondorf Schulz & Bowen 2012 Barossa Shiraz; full-bodied and rich, taste reminiscent of blackberry and plum fruits with integrated vanillin oak and quite firm tannins. Quite nicely sweet for a shiraz with a lingering finish.
In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium. Add the diced onions and stir in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for another minute before adding the two minces, browning until fragrant.
In a small bowl, whisk the stock cube with 150ml of water and add to the mince mixture with the thyme leaves, mushrooms, passata, tomato paste and red wine.
Stir well to combine and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting, allowing to simmer uncovered for about twenty minutes to half an hour – stirring occasionally – until the sauce has reduced to a thickness of your liking. I personally like mine quite chunky and intensely flavoured. When it’s done, stir through the Parmesan and remove from the heat.
To cook the pasta once it’s sufficiently dried, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Over a high heat, add the pasta and cook, stirring, for three to five minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Drain immediately through a sieve and return to the drained saucepan.
Ladle over a few spoonfuls of the rich bolognese, ensuring that you don’t over-sauce it. What you’re featuring here is the fresh pasta, aided by the rich depth and smooth flavour of the red wine sauce. Serve immediately with fresh black pepper cracked over the top, a scatter of more Parmesan and a glass of the same red.
Comfort food at its peak. Have a safe week lovelies; stay warm xx