Friday, January 30, 2009

Tagliatelle with Meat Sauce (PTC - DS)

In the Bologne region of Italy, the local pasta dish is known as ragu, cooked chopped meat on pasta. It's the basis for the dish commonly known as spaghetti bolognese, only in Bologne the pasta used isn't spaghetti but tagliatelle, a slightly wider version of fettucine. Personal Trainer: Cooking has tagliatelle with meat sauce listed in its Italian section; I decided it'd be worth a try.

Ingredients: The only real surprise, here, is the use of flour as a thickening agent. Otherwise the ingredient list is pretty familiar: you start with a soffrito of carrot, onion and celery, then add ground beef, wine, canned tomatoes (because it's winter in Canada, fresh ones just don't have the intensity of flavour), some stock and some seasonings.

The major modification I made was using ground lamb as well as beef, mainly because I thought a stronger meat profile would be good. I also left out the called-for broth, because -- well, you'll see when I explain.

Technique: Here, I think PTC made a serious error in its equipment list. For making the sauce, the recipe calls for using a frying pan. Honestly, that's a bad idea, because the recipe requires you to have at least 4 cups of liquid in addition to all the other ingredients. A 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven would be a far better choice.

Preparing the soffrito went well enough; a little too much noise when I was chopping the carrot (which tended to confuse the DS) but all went well. Ditto with the browning of the ground beef and the ground lamb. About the time when I added the tomatoes and red wine, however, I started worrying about overflow. It became pretty obvious that the 13-inch chef's pan I was using wasn't tall enough to accommodate the stock called for in the recipe.

The recipe called for a simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on. Great, except that there was too much liquid in the sauce as it was. I compromised: 10 minutes with lid on, rest of time with lid off, and I'd let it boil while I made the tagliatelle.

No, PTC doesn't actually have a recipe, at this point, for making fresh pasta; they recommend a package of dried tagliatelle instead. I just figured that, since I have a pasta machine that I don't use as often as I should, and a paper recipe for making egg pasta, I should try it. After all, how hard could it be?

Um -- long story short, I wound up boiling up some dried angel hair pasta. No, it's not the ideal match for this type of meat sauce, but it was what I had in the pantry.

Results: Pasta disasta aside, it wasn't bad. Using lamb as well as beef added a good note, I think.

If you've never made Bolognese sauce before, this is a good basic recipe. However, there is a nicer one from Heston Blumenthal that, while a lot more complicated (and a lot more time-consuming), yields a more flavourful accompaniment to a pasta dish.

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