Tagliatelle Bolognese Recipe

A hearty pasta from Thomas McNaughton's Flour + Water: Pasta. "With tortellini, the dough itself is obscured by the meat filling and the broth. Tagliatelle, on the other hand, is thicker and sans filling; you can actually taste — and critique — the pasta itself. A good Bolognese is all about the melding of flavours, neither too dry nor too wet. When you twirl your noodles together, there should be just enough sauce to bind the noodles together. The meat and tomato flavours come together through the addition of milk, which acts as the sauce's binding agent. The most important ingredient in Bolognese is something we all should make a point to discover: time. The sauce is a combination of simple ingredients that come together over hours — five hours, in our case — to create something greater than the sum of its parts."

Ingredients

Tagliatelle (Standard Egg Dough)
2 well-packed cups of unsifted flour
1-1/4 tsp (2 big pinches) of kosher salt
18-20 egg yolks (about 1-1/4 cup)
1-1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Bolognese Ragu
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
12 oz. ground beef
5-1/2 oz. ground pork
3-1/2 oz. pancetta, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup milk
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To Finish
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for finishing

Equipment
Pasta machine
Rolling pin
Baking sheets

Store-Bought Option
Dried tagliatelle

Directions

Tagliatelle (Standard Egg Dough)

Mixing

Step 1: To start, place flour on a dry, clean work surface, forming a mound about 8-10″ in diameter at its base. Sprinkle the salt in the middle of the mound. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, create a well 4-5″ wide, with at least a 1/2″ of flour on the bottom of the well.

Step 2: Slowly and carefully add the wet ingredients (eggs and olive oil) into the well, treating the flour as a bowl. Using a fork, gently beat the eggs without touching the flour walls or scraping through the bottom of the work surface.

Step 3: Then, still stirring, begin to slowly incorporate the flour “walls” into the egg mixture, gradually working your way toward the outer edges of the flour, but disturbing the base as little as possible. If the eggs breach the sides too soon, quickly scoop them back in and reform the wall. Once the dough starts to take on a thickened, paste-like quality (slurry), slowly incorporate the flour on the bottom into the mixture.

Step 4: When the slurry starts to move as a solid mass, remove as much as possible from the fork. With a bench scraper (or spatula), slide under the mass of dough and flip it and turn it onto itself to clear any wet dough from the work surface.

Step 5: At this point, with your hands, start folding and forming the dough into a single mass. The goal is to incorporate all the flour. When it starts to resemble a crumbly pie dough, spritz it from time to time with water from a spray bottle, which helps to “glue” any loose flour to the dry dough ball.

Step 6: When the dough forms a stiff, solid mass, scrape away any debris (dried clumps of flour) from the work surface that, if incorporated in the dough, will create dry spots in the final product.

Kneading

Step 7: Kneading is an essential step in the dough-making process: it realigns the protein structure of the dough so that it develops properly during the resting stage that follows.

Step 8: Kneading is simple: Drive the heel of your dominant hand into the dough. Push down and release, and then use your other hand to pick up and rotate the dough on itself 45°. Drive the heel of your hand back in the dough, rotate and repeat for 10 to 15 minutes. This is how Italian grandmas get their fat wrists.

Step 9: Pasta is easy to under-knead but virtually impossible to over-knead (unlike bread, where each type has its sweet spot or ideal kneading time). That said, even though the dough cannot be over-kneaded, it can spend too much time on the work table- and as a direct result, start to dehydrate and in turn, be more difficult to form into its final shape. For best results, I think a 10-15 minute range is a solid guideline. When the dough is ready, it will stop changing appearance and texture. The dough will be firm but bouncy to the touch and have a smooth, silky surface, almost like Play-Doh. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap.

Resting

Step 10: At this stage, the flour particles continue to absorb moisture, which further develops the gluten structure that allows pasta dough to stand up to rolling and shaping.

Step 11: If you plan to use the dough immediately, let it rest for at least 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature prior to rolling it out (the next step). If resting for more than 6 hours, put the dough in the refrigerator. It’s best to use fresh dough within 24 hours. Under proper refrigeration, the dough will hold for 2 days, but I try to avoid letting it rest that long, simply because the eggs yolks will oxidize and discolour the dough. It won’t affect the flavor or the texture, but the dough will develop a slightly off colour and a grayish-greenish hue.

Step 12: Resting is the point in the process when the elasticity of pasta dough forms, thanks to the formation of gluten strands as the wheat fully absorbs the liquid in the dough. My rule of thumb is that dough should rest for at least 30 minutes in plastic wrap at room temperature. After 30 minutes, either roll it out immediately or put it in the fridge.

Rolling Out the Dough

Step 13: Rolling is the last phase of the mixing process. Rolling out pasta by machine-whether it’s a hand-crank model or an electric one-should be a delicate, almost Zen-like art. You can only roll out dough that has rested for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. If it has rested for longer in the fridge, give the dough enough time to come back to room temperature. The fat content of pasta dough is so high that it will solidify when cold, so it needs to come back to room temperature to be easier to roll.

Step 14: The process for rolling sheets of pasta dough is the same whether you have a hand-cranked machine or an electric one, like we have in the restaurant.

Step 15: To start, slice off a section of the ball of dough, immediately re-wrapping the unused portion in plastic wrap. Place the piece of dough on the work surface and, with a rolling pin, flatten it enough that it will fit into the widest setting of the pasta machine. You do not want to stress the dough or the machine.

Step 16: It’s crucial to remember that whenever the pasta dough is not in plastic wrap or under a damp towel, you’re in a race against time. The minute you expose the pasta to air, it starts to dehydrate. This creates a dry outer skin that you do not want to incorporate into the finished dough; the goal is to create a dough of uniform consistency.

Step 17: Our dough is purposely very dry. We do not add any raw flour in the rolling process. Adding extra flour sticks to the dough and when cooked, that splotch turns into a gooey mass, a slick barrier to sauce. We want a perfect mass of dough and use very little, if any, raw flour on the outside. Added flour dulls the seasoning and flavours of both the dough and the finished dish.

Step 18: Begin rolling the dough through the machine, starting with the widest setting. Guide it quickly through the slot once. Then decrease the thickness setting by one, and repeat. Decrease the thickness setting by one more, and roll the dough through quickly one more time, Once the dough has gone through three times, once on each of the first three settings, it should have doubled in length.

Step 19: Lay the dough on a flat surface. The dough’s hydration level at this point is so low that you’ll probably see some streaks; that’s normal, which is the reason for the next crucial step: laminating the dough.

Step 20: Using a rolling pin as a makeshift ruler, measure the width of your pasta machine’s slot, minus the thickness of two fingers. This measurement represents the ideal width of the pasta sheet, with about a finger’s length on each side, so there’s plenty of room in the machine. Take that rolling pin measurement to
the end of the pasta sheet and make a gentle indentation in the dough representing the measurement’s length. Make that mark the crease and fold the pasta over. Repeat for the rest of the pasta sheet, keeping that same initial measurement. For best results, you want a minimum of four layers. Secure the layers of the pasta together with the rolling pin, rolling it flat enough that it can fit in the machine. Put the dough back in the machine, but with a 90 degree turn of the sheet. In other words, what was the “bottom” edge of the pasta is now going through the machine first.

Step 21: This time around, it’s important to roll out the dough two to three times on each setting, at a steady, smooth pace. We’ve created this gluten network — a web of elasticity — so if you roll it too fast, it will snap back to its earlier thickness, thereby lengthening the time you’re going through each number.

Step 22: The more slowly you crank the pasta dough, the more compression time the dough has; it’s important to stay consistent in the speed in order to keep a consistent thickness. You should be able to see and feel the resistance as the dough passes through the rollers. On the first time at each level, the dough will compress. It’s time to move onto the next level when the dough slips through without any trouble. The first few thickness settings (the biggest widths) usually require three passes; once you’re into thinner territory, there’s less pasta dough compressing, so it goes more quickly and two passes get the job done.

Step 23: When handling the sheet of dough — especially as it gets longer — always keep it taut and flat. Never grab or flop or twist the pasta. The sheet should rest on the inside edges of your index fingers with your fingers erect and pointed out. The hands don’t grab or stretch the dough; instead, they act as paddles, guiding the sheet of dough through into the machine. Handling the dough with your fingers pointed straight out alleviates any pressure to the dough, which stretches and warps it.

Step 24: Use the right hand to feed the machine and use the left hand to crank. Once the pasta dough is halfway through, switch hands, pulling out with the left hand. If you have trouble doing it alone as the dough gets longer and thinner, find a friend to help juggle the dough, or roll out a smaller, more wieldy batch.

Step 25: Dust 2 baking sheets with semolina flour and set aside.

Step 26: Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough to 1/16″ thick (see above). With a knife, cut the dough into 12″ strips. Make two stacks of strips, four strips per stack, thoroughly dusting between the layers with semolina flour. Allow the dough to dry for 30-45 minutes, or until the dough has a slightly dry, leathery texture but is still pliable.

Step 27: Fold each stack like a letter, forming three even layers. Cut the folded dough into 1/4″ strips, shake off the excess semolina, and form into small nests on the prepared baking sheets. Set aside.

Bolognese Ragu

Step 1: For the Bolognese ragu, heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté until soft, 8-10 minutes.

Step 2: Add the beef, pork, and pancetta; sauté, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Add 2-1/2 cups of the stock and the tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce the heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan; gradually add to the sauce. Cover the sauce with a lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 1 hour, adding more stock by 1/4 cupfuls to thin if needed.

Step 5: To finish, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Step 6: Transfer the ragu to a 12″ sauté pan and bring to a simmer.Add the butter and begin swirling to combine.

Step 7: At the same time, drop the pasta in the boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked 80 percent through, until almost al dente, about 2-3 minutes, add it to the pan. Reserve the pasta water. Continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until you achieve a sauce-like consistency, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from the heat.

Step 8: To serve, divide the pasta and sauce between four plates. Finish with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Reprinted with permission from Thomas McNaughton & Paolo Lucchesi’s Flour + Water: Pasta (2014 Ten Speed Press).

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