My food isn’t terribly fancy – it’s simple food, that is generous in spirit and comfort. My style of cooking favours intuition over strict rules, and encourages you to use your hands, rush a little less and savour the small details. These details are, to me, the important part of cooking.
Cooking and eating can easily become a hurried and meaningless activity, or it can just as easily become an important daily ritual, where the actual making of the food is the real celebration, the significant part. By taking some time to think about how you will cook a particular ingredient, or how a recipe can be adjusted to suit what is in season or available in your area, you become more connected to the food, and purpose in your meal.
Since I was young, I have always written notes on food and cooking, reading as much as I could, writing as I cooked and sharing ideas. For a long time, it was in a notebook, mostly scribble. And then it moved online, as most of the world did. Italy is where I first began , a space where I could share my recipes and thoughts. Now these ideas have finally become a book, without the scribble this time!
Sometimes my recipes will have their origins deeply rooted in family, or might be simply inspired by whatever is ready to be picked in the garden. However they come about, my ideas are merely a guide which I hope you take and make your own.
Today I share my Tagliatelle with Beef Short-Rib Ragu recipe.
Beef short ribs can be bought in racks cut across the bone, asado style, or cut between the bones into individual ribs. Either is fine, however, if you’re using the former, simply cut the rack into more manageable pieces for browning. The ribs benefit from a long, slow cook – they will be incredibly rich, tender and full of flavour. AND fresh pasta is a perfect match for this ragù – cooked briefly in the sauce, it will take on all of the richness.
For the tagliatelle pasta
300 g tipo 00 flour
100 g semolina flour (see page 13), extra for dusting
generous pinch of sea salt 4 eggs
For the sauce
60 ml (1⁄4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
800 g beef short ribs, cut into individual ribs if necessary
250 ml (1 cup) red wine
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 680 g tomato passata
2 fresh bay leaves
2 oregano sprigs
large handful of basil leaves
grated parmesan, to serve
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and a pinch of salt and sauté for 10–15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Transfer to a large bowl and wipe the saucepan clean. Heat the remaining olive oil over a high heat and brown the ribs on all sides. Transfer to the bowl and discard any oil left in the saucepan. Return to the heat, add the wine and simmer for a minute or two, scraping any bits stuck to the bottom. Return the vegetables and ribs to the saucepan, add the garlic, passata and 300 ml of water and stir so it’s all nicely combined. Add the bay leaves and oregano. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 3–4 hours until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone.
To make the dough for the tagliatelle, tip the ours and salt onto a clean work surface and combine. Create a well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Gently whisk the eggs using a fork, then slowly bring in the our and incorporate until you have a shaggy dough. You’ll have to ditch the fork after a little while and use your hands instead. Knead for about 8 minutes until the dough is soft but not at all sticky.
Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Divide the pasta dough into four pieces. Cover three of the pieces and set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough using a rolling pin into a rough disc shape about 5 mm thick. Roll the dough through a pasta machine set to the widest setting, then roll again through the next two narrower settings, dusting with a little our between each roll if needed. Fold the dough back in on itself so it’s a bit narrower than the width of the machine and use a rolling pin to flatten slightly. Set the machine back to the widest setting and roll back through the first three settings again, folding and flattening the pasta dough before each roll. Repeat this process three more times, so in total you’ve rolled the dough through the three widest settings, folding between each roll, four times in total. is makes the pasta nice and strong, and you can now roll the dough through the settings until the pasta is around 1.5 mm thick. Dust the pasta sheet with semolina our. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough. Allow the pasta sheets to dry out slightly for 10 or so minutes. Now, gently roll up each pasta sheet from the shortest end. With a sharp knife, cut the pasta into ribbons about 8 mm wide. Unravel the pasta and dust with a little our. You could also arrange the pasta in small mounds – just be sure that it is well dusted to avoid sticking.
If not using immediately, I hang my pasta on the back of our chairs at home, but you can use proper racks for hanging pasta, which are available at most kitchenware stores. Otherwise, a clothes-drying rack works well, too.
Remove the ribs from the ragù and shred the meat, discarding any bones. Return the meat to the sauce, along with most of the basil leaves. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until slightly reduced. Remove and discard the bay leaves, season to taste and keep the ragù warm over a low heat while you cook the pasta.
Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for 2–3 minutes or until al dente. Transfer the tagliatelle to the ragù and toss to combine, adding 60–125 ml (1⁄4–1⁄2 cup) of the pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve into bowls and scatter with freshly grated parmesan and the remaining basil leaves.
‘‘ by Julia Busuttil-Nishimura is published in paper-back (AUD$44.99) or e-book ($17.99) by Pan Macmillan’s lifestyle imprint, . It is also available at all good bookstores, and for orders outside Australia ship internationally.